A pilot project is taking flight in Northeast Oregon, one which may be keeping some cars and trucks from flying off icy roads.

Rock salt is being used by the Oregon Department of Transportation to combat ice on Interstate 84 in Northeast Oregon for the first time in at least two decades.

Sean Rohan, the La Grande transportation maintenance coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation, believes the use of salt will limit the number of crashes on Interstate 84 in the region this winter.

“I will be curious to see the stats,” he said. “It sure seems like it (is reducing the number of crashes).”

Salt is being used along with the liquid magnesium chloride and crushed gravel ODOT has been using for years to combat icy roads in the winter, said Ace Clark, ODOT’s District 13 manager.

Salting roads prevents ice building up by altering the freezing point of water, Clark said. Water with a higher salt content has a lower freezing point than water with less salinity. This means that salting icy roads lowers the freezing point of the water that forms ice, which leads to melting and prevents falling snow or rain from freezing.

Rock salt is being applied on I-84 in Northeast Oregon and a short portion of Interstate 82 this winter as part of Phase II of an ODOT pilot project being conducted to determine how effective it is at preventing accidents. Phase II of ODOT’s pilot project calls for rock salt to be used on I-84 from the Idaho border to Boardman and on Interstate 82 for about 10 miles from Umatilla southwest to I-84. The plan also allows ODOT to use rock salt in limited quantities on I-84 from Boardman to Portland when there are exceptional circumstances.

Rohan can see the difference the rock salt is making on roads in Northeast Oregon.

For the complete story, see the Dec. 27 edition of The Observer.