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LINCOLN COUNTY (WAOW) -
A central Wisconsin highway department is trying something new this winter to make roads safer.
It involves a produce product.
Beet juice. Yes, like the vegetable.
That's what highway crews in Lincoln County are using this winter.
The juice is mixed magnesium chloride and traditional salt. The department's superintendent says it is more effective.
"It seems to activate significantly faster on the roadways and it seems to hold the road open longer of a long drawn out storm event," said Lincoln County Highway Department Patrol Superintendent Mike VanDeWeerd.
As the temperature continues to drop, officials say the beet juice mixture will come in handy.
"The coated salt that we mixed up should be good down to about 10 below zero and still have a melting factor. Regular rock salt is good to about 10-15 degrees above zero," said VanDeWeerd.
State transportation officials say 30 percent of the salt put on roads bounces off, ends up in a ditch, essentially becoming ineffective. But with the beet juice, that number drops to less than three percent.
"With the coated salt, you'll need less salt to get the same effect on the roadways," said VanDeWeerd.
Drivers say they're noticing a difference.
"The road here is completely clear. Which is nice as a driver because there's less opportunity for things to happen," said Clifford O'Baker of Merrill.
O'Baker lives on State Highway 64, one of the roads coated with the beet juice salt.
"It's quite a bit different, the roads are clear, it makes for much better and safer travel," said O'Baker.
While O'Baker says it's an unusual concept, he says he's glad it's working. Highway crews agree.
"Especially if you were coming from one county that is using it to one county that is not. You're going to see at certain times in the morning, one road opening up faster than another," said VanDeWeerd.
Even though the beet juice costs more, the highway superintendent says the department is still within the budget. Meaning they'll continue to use this new mixture all winter long.
Officials say the beet juice doesn't have a noticeable smell or leave any stains.
We asked the Department of Natural Resources if there were any environmental concerns with the beet juice. They said there was none.
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