Crews use beet juice to treat Kansas roads ahead of winter weather

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When crews treat Kansas highways for ice, some drivers might notice darker trails on the pavement instead of the usual white ones left by brine. It's beet juice. 

The state Department of Transportation says the properties of beet juice, when mixed with brine, allow for the melting agent to be effective at lower temperatures. 

(MORE: Rain and snow return to KAKEland)

Beet juice, which tends to leave a brownish or grayish residue, also allows brine and salt to adhere to pavement longer.

District Engineer Brent Terstriep says another beet-juice benefit is that when beet juice is added to brine, the combination makes ice-fighting more efficient because crews don’t have to drive out as often to apply brine.

KDOT Emergency Coordinator Jim Frye gave this additional explanation of how beet juice works and how it has been used:

  • As moisture on pavement starts to freeze, the juice slows the process so that the liquid remains slushy longer. That gives crews more time to clear highways before the liquid turns to solid ice.
  • One problem with spreading salt or spraying salt brine on a highway is that it will bounce away or scatter with traffic or the wind. “When the beet juice is added to the salt or salt brine, with its sticky texture, it will hold the salt or salt crystals on the highway longer, allowing it to work in our favor."

KDOT says it began experimenting with the beet juice it uses now during the winter of 2015 in northwest Kansas. Since then, KDOT has made beet juice available at more than 20 locations across the state.

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