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Beet juice considered for treating wintry roads in Michigan

Posted at 7:27 AM, Dec 10, 2020

(WXYZ) — We all know salt can help clear Michigan roads of snow and ice, but now state lawmakers want to see if beet juice can get the job done too.

There is currently a bill to help fund a Michigan Department of Transportation study looking into the benefits of beet juice.

“In Michigan, we are one of the top states that produce sugar beets," said Senator Roger Victory of Michigan's 30th district.

These sugar beets are combined with salt, the sticky beet juice acting as an adhesive to help the salt stay on the roads instead of blowing away.

Senator Victory from Ottawa County tells 7 Action News beet juice can also withstand the extreme cold better than some brine and salt combinations.

“It actually has higher temperature tolerance than what salt will have," the senator said.

The goal? Fewer salt treatments. Less salt means less corroding of our roadways.

“Salt is very corrosive to steel, a lot of our concrete roads have a steel meshing system in place.”

Senator Victory says it’s also better for the environment. This means less salt making its way onto farms and hurting crop production. as well as less salt making its way into the stormwater system.

But beet juice isn’t necessarily new in Michigan.

Some cities are already using the beet juice mixture on their roads, including in Novi.

“In the long-run, cost savings is probably the bottom line," said Jeff Herczeg, Novi Director of Public Works.

Herczeg says they have used beet juice on the roads since 2009, and that it has paid off for them.

“The biggest benefit for us is the reduction in salt costs and efficiency for our operator, we see about a 35 percent savings in salt alone, and then the liquids also do make the operation more efficient which cuts down on labor," said Herczeg.

A representative for the Michigan Department of Transportation tells 7 Action News the cost for the study along with the equipment needed to conduct the study is estimated to be $600,000.

The bill to approve the study now needs to pass out of the Committee of Ways and Means. If passed, MDOT says the study would start next winter.