Sugar beet molasses may replace road salt as Michigan’s winter road solution.

(Alpha Media file photo)

The Michigan Department of Transportation will begin a three year study on the effects of using beet molasses and other organic products on wintry Michigan roadways. The molasses can be employed by MDOT onto the roadway in many forms: by spraying, by soaking current salt product in it and by mixing with other products like pickle or cheese brine. Regardless of form, beet molasses has shown to be more effective on deicing roads while being less corrosive than salt to bridges and vehicles, plus reduces chloride pollution of rivers, lakes and groundwater.

The U.S. Department of Transportation reports the country spends about $2.3 billion dollars each year on anti-icing and deicing measures, increasing the cost of road maintenance and repair by about $5 billion. Proponents of the study say the organic products could reduce salt use by about 30 percent.

Senate Bill 379, which would authorize the study, is backed by companies like Bay City based Michigan Sugar. John Boothroyd, Michigan Sugar Manager of Government Relations, explains why the study is important.

“There’s a lot of benefit to using these products that have beet molasses in them: they work at lower temperatures than salt, they stick to the roads better than salt does and they’re not corrosive to our bridges and our cars.”

Similar products are already being used by communities like Frankenmuth, which helps alleviate concerns about the roadway molasses being sticky or scented. The bill is sponsored by several state senators, including Ken Horn from Frankenmuth.