City hopes new technology will reduce the amount of salt on roads

By Mark Brownlee

Rock salt. Photo: Chris Ferguson

The City of Ottawa is hoping new technology will help reduce the adverse effects of salt spreading on roads during the winter months.

The new technology, consisting of a black box with antennas that attaches to each snowplow, will tell city officials how much salt has been set down and which roads have been covered by transmitting data from each plow to a central system.

“Salting is our first defence against winter storms,” said Councillor Maria McRae, chair of the transportation committee in a statement issued Tuesday. “With this technology, we can better manage what we spread while maintaining safe roadways for motorists.”

City officials say the global positioning system (GPS) technology could reduce the amount of salt used on city roads by as much as 13,300 tonnes. That could save the city as much as $1 million each year.

There are also environmental benefits. Salt, which is used to make roads safer for drivers by getting rid of snow and ice, can also find its way into water flows, changing the amount of chlorine in area residents’ drinking water.

But, it’s still unclear if the new system will actually result in less salt being put down on city roads, since snowplow drivers decide how much to use.

“They’re the ones that have the information and have an understanding … of how much to spread,” said Owen Moore, president of Grey Island Systems, the company that developed the technology. “All we’re doing is monitoring it and appending it to GPS information so the municipality knows exactly where and when it’s put down.”

It will cost $200,000 to put the new equipment on the city’s salt spreaders.


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