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Beet Juice Among MoDOT Ingredients to Keep State Roads Clear

Plowing through the snow: Photo Credit- MoDOT

Monday night’s snowfall dumped an additional four inches on top of previous accumulations, with temperatures remaining below the freezing mark. KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports on how MoDOT and the areas it serves are handling the winter surge.

The 21 counties under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Southwest District are covered by more than 300 snow plows during the winter months. Assistant District Engineer Andy Mueller, who oversees Polk, Dallas, Greene and Webster counties, says besides salt, another ingredient used on area roads is beet juice.

“We’ve found that it does a similar thing as calcium chloride when we mix that juice with our salt, [it] produces kind of a brine material that will melt ice and snow in sub-freezing temperatures,” Mueller said.

Mueller adds that last weekend’s storms forced crews to exhaust 55 percent of its salt stockpiles, and reloading the tanks will come at a cost of half a million dollars, noting that the state agency has already used more salt in the past few days then they did all of last winter.

Related: See how Springfield city streets are maintained when winter weather strikes.

As for the available services during these types of winter storms, Mueller says it’s comparable to recent years, despite budget cuts in 2011 and the closing of three district offices.

Robert “Bob” Pollard is the city administrator for Willow Springs in MoDOT’s Southeast District, which lost its district office two years ago.

“MoDOT did pretreat and Willow Springs is a benefactor of two routes that MoDOT actually cleared that run through the town.  They were adequate.  Now there is a slower response time than what it was in years past, but it’s adequate,” Pollard says.

Mueller agrees that the people in a community where a local building has been closed might notice a longer time before crews are present on those roads. However, the area will still get cleared.

“The biggest inconsistency that our customers see is entirely due to the storm itself. They’re gonna see a difference in the amount of time it takes to get the road clear depending on the type of storm,” Mueller said.

Travelers can always check MoDOT’s website for the latest road conditions.  Officials say the key is to take it easy and allow extra time to get where you’re going. 

KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann contributed to this story.

Scott joined KSMU in November 2012. He had previously served five years as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station in Commerce, Texas. A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Scott enjoys producing human-interest stories, among other pieces that educate and engage the community. When not at work, he’s often taking part in outdoor activities, exploring new areas and restaurants, or staying up-to-date with the latest news and information. Scott was born and raised in Shenandoah, Iowa.