Edmonton’s salt brine pilot saved city $4.3M on snow and ice removal efforts: report

The City of Edmonton's roadway maintenance department is running a pilot project to test the use of anti-icing units, similar to ones already used by private contractors, that can hold 7,500 litres of the road-clearing liquid. Global News

An analysis of a new method the city tested this past winter to keep Edmonton roads free of snow and ice has come back and it will melt your taxpaying heart.

The pilot that saw crews spray a salt brine solution to keep the amount of snow from piling up, saw a savings of $4.3 million, according to a city report.

That’s a seven per cent savings from the five-year average from 2013 to 2017 of $62.2 million. The number of snowfall days was comparable to the five-year average.

“We’re excited by the preliminary results of reducing the costs,” Janet Tecklenborg, the city’s director of infrastructure operations, said on Thursday.

The solution was sprayed throughout roughly 40 per cent of the city during the pilot project.

About 68 per cent less sand was used, which reduced cleanup costs in the spring.

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“A lot of that was due to much less damage being caused to the sweepers because the wear and tear was notable to us,” Tecklenborg said.

A report released on Thursday, which will be reviewed by the community services committee on July 4, said crews “completed the spring sweep six days faster than the five-year historical average.”

Watch below: In June 2018, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about the City of Edmonton wanting people to think about winter and complete a survey about Edmonton’s anti-icing pilot program.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton’s anti-icing solution: yay or nay?'
Edmonton’s anti-icing solution: yay or nay?

Councillor Andrew Knack said he’s impressed with the amount of savings, especially since a citywide program could likely save more.

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“If it had been a small impact, I think then we would have a tougher conversation. Here, it’s pretty significant.”

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He’s convinced the lower cost is a good trade-off for the lingering effects the salt will have on vehicles.

“I don’t know if it’s necessarily unreasonable to say that we might all have to do an extra wash, because we can now do a much better job.”

The report relayed survey results that once the benefits and downsides were explained, “47 per cent of Edmontonians who responded to the survey had a positive opinion about the anti-icing pilot, 34 per cent had a neutral opinion, and nine per cent had a negative opinion.”

Seventy-four per cent of respondents felt the anti-icing pilot should continue, and 71 per cent thought it should be expanded.

The report said the city has four new goals for the upcoming winter: to have all streets plowed 12 hours after a snow event, instead of 36; ensuring bus stops have bare pavement within 24 hours; maintaining priority sidewalks, trails and bike routes to ensure they have bare pavement 24 hours after a snowfall; limiting the snowpack on residential streets.

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“This year, we were able to get to bare pavement and historically that hadn’t been our target,” Tecklenborg said. “What we want to understand this year is how much is it going to cost to get to 12 hours and what’s kind of the optimum in terms of service level and cost?”

She said the limited pilot didn’t indicate reductions in collisions, although the studies they looked at going in proposed a 30 to 66 per cent reduction in collisions.

“We’re hoping to collect more data over the next two years to be able to get a better understanding on the impact we’re having on safety.”

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