HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James Redeker said Friday he's willing to review whether it makes sense to add rust inhibitors to chemical road treatments used to clear ice and snow on state roads and highways, as his agency faces complaints from motorists, truckers and local fire officials about corroded vehicles.
Redeker said that currently there's no evidence to suggest rust inhibitors help combat the corrosive effects of road treatments. But the Department of Transportation is open to investigating any possible benefits as well as any potential harmful environmental impacts, he said.
"If there's a product that solves both issues, we'd be happy to use it," the commissioner said.
Redeker's comments came as members of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee heard testimony Friday on a bill that would require the department to analyze the corrosive effects of chemical road treatments on vehicles and highway infrastructure, including bridges.
In testimony submitted to the committee, the Auto Body Association of Connecticut said it has noticed over the past four years an increase in rusted-out brake and fuel lines, as well as abnormal rust on vehicle frames.
"Premature rusting of fuel lines and brake lines in particular poses a significant safety threat to the motoring public," wrote Anthony Ferraiolo, the association's president. "The corrosive effects of chemical road treatments appear to be damaging our vehicles and potentially threatening our safety."
Prior to 2006, when the DOT began its de-icing program, the state used salt and sand on accumulated snow. But the use of those materials resulted in substantial snow pack and the use of large quantities of salt, according to the department. Since 2006, the DOT has been pretreating the roads before a storm with a sodium chloride brine, which the department said has significantly reduced accidents on major river crossings, helped keep snow and ice from bonding to the pavement, provided plow drivers more time at the onset of a storm, reduced salt use and ensured bare pavement soon after a storm.
Besides the pre-treatment, the state uses a mixture of salt and magnesium chloride to prevent snow from bonding to the road. Redeker said Connecticut uses far less of such material than other states. DOT determined that neighboring Massachusetts uses three times the amount of salt that Connecticut uses.
Redeker acknowledged, however, that all materials used in highway clearing are corrosive.
"The fact is, our vehicles, as well as others, have seen corrosion," he said. "But there's been a real balance between keeping our roads safe and that corrosive material."
He said washing vehicles is effective in preventing corrosion, but acknowledged that can have negative environmental consequences. While Redeker said the DOT has not seen an acceleration of deterioration of state bridges, due to the chemicals, he said the agency is working with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on a pilot program to wash bridges.