AUTC project number: 510006
Xianming Shi (MSU)
A research partnership between Montana and Alaska may bring considerable cost savings and transportation safety improvements on Alaska’s roads. With an eye toward sustainability and cost effectiveness, researchers Xianming Shi of the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) of Montana State University and Juanyu Liu of the Alaska University Transportation Center (AUTC) are investigating whether local agriculture products or byproducts from local distilleries can replace high-cost proprietary products that enhance anti-icing operations on Alaska roads. Using literature review, agency surveys, laboratory investigation and follow-up field test, researchers will develop and test locally sources salt brine additives to determine whether they are suitable for anti-icing during winter maintenance in Alaska. The U.S. currently spends approximately $2.3 billion annually to keep highways free of snow and ice, and the associated corrosion and environmental impacts add at least $5 billion to that budget. Development of alternative anti-icing products serves the public interest, as this research is expected to generate significant cost savings for Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and other maintenance agencies. This research will provide ADOT&PF with more options in their snow and ice control toolbox and promote sustainable, cost-effective winter road service. While this research will likely reduce costs for winter road maintenance in Alaska, it may also boost local economic growth by helping the value-added utilization of glycerol, which is the principal byproduct of biodiesel production. The bio-based local materials may also be useful for dust suppression and soil stabilization, adding to the potential benefits of this research. Additionally, the expected social benefits include improved safety and mobility for travelers and commercial drivers as well as a reduction in corrosion and environmental impacts. Further, by allowing the given budget for winter road maintenance to cover more roads or more frequent anti-icing, the research may increase winter driving across the state.