In the winter of 2017-2018, ODOT expanded its use of solid salt (NaCl, commonly called rock salt or table salt) after determining some best management practices from a five-year pilot project on two highways.
The pilot helped us determine how to use solid salt, in combination with the snow fighting tools we already use, to improve highway safety and mobility while attempting to minimize impact to the environment. The two test areas for the five-year pilot connect Oregon with states that already use salt on the same highways:
- U.S. 95 in southeastern Oregon runs about 121 miles between Nevada and Idaho, which both use salt. ODOT used salt in limited situations on this highway, except in areas near a city water supply
- Interstate 5 over the Siskiyou Pass connects Oregon with California, which already uses salt on the Interstate. ODOT is used salt in limited situations on 11 miles of this highway
The goal of the pilot was to create similar road surface conditions on each highway no matter what state drivers were traveling in, while attempting to minimize environmental impact. We are treating solid salt as just another tool in our toolbox—not the only tool in the box.
The expansion of our use of salt in late 2017 affects primarily I-84, I-5 and, at times, Oregon’s major urban areas:
- ODOT may use salt on about 200 miles of I-84, from near Boardman to the Idaho border. Our goal in this area is to reduce ice on the interstate caused by freezing fog, freezing rain and heavy snow storms
- ODOT may use salt on about 100 miles of I-5, from near Canyonville to the California border. Our goal in this area is to reduce ice forming on the steep inclines travelers face on several parts of I-5.
ODOT will possibly use salt on the remaining sections of I-5 and I-84 and on major highways in the Portland, Salem and Eugene metro areas, if a particular storm warrants its limited use and if salt is available.
ODOT is concerned about the impact of salt on the environment, infrastructure and vehicles. ODOT will continue to implement best practices for storing and using salt, and will pursue appropriate research to inform effective decision making.
We strongly recommend that you wash your vehicle after winter storms.