You may have a five-pound bag of salt sitting in your garage in case of snowy or icy weather. Imagine if you had to keep thousands of tons of salt on hand. That’s exactly the position Dennis Burkheimer’s in as the winter operations administrator for the Iowa Department of Transportation. Burkheimer says the D-O-T has about 190-thousand tons of salt in storage — which is one year’s supply. Burkheimer says the department likes to refill its supply as the salt is used through the winter. Burkheimer says the use of the liquid salt brine mixture has increased through the years. Burkheimer says mixing the salt with the water helps keep the salt on the roadway and also activates the salt so it works better. He says the brine stretches out the salt supply, giving them more for their money.

Burkheimer says the D-O-T has cut back dramatically on the amount of sand used on roadways. He says they used to use 150-thousand ton of sand a year, but they’re now down to six or seven thousand tons statewide. Burkheimer says sand has been replaced by more effective tools like the salt brine. Burkheimer says sand doesn’t help melt ice and doesn’t help with traction as much of the sand is often blow off the road by vehicles. Burkheimer says sand is stilled used in extremely cold conditions and at stop signs and other spots where it can be most effective.

While you may spend five or ten dollars on salt for your driveway, Burkheimer’s winter bill is a lot higher. He says their annual budget is usually 35-million dollars and Burkheimer says the actual amount spent depends on the weather. Burkheimer says the costs of the materials like salt have gone up and the D-O-T is constantly looking for ways to save in the winter weather fight.