Oak Park tries to beet the snow

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Residents traversing through the village over the past few weeks may have noticed a strange, sticky substance on their streets. That's because local street crews are testing whether beet juice is a good way to treat roads before they're covered in snow.

Over the past two or three weeks, the Village of Oak Park has been experimenting with spraying a beet juice solution on some of its streets. The liquid solution - which includes mostly brine, along with beet juice and calcium chloride - has been sprayed in a small area of Oak Park before snowfalls.

Mike Fenwick, streets superintendent for the village, says the brown-colored solution helps glue salt to the road.

"If you put just salt down, it's going to blow away to the curb and do nobody any good," Fenwick said.

When temperatures are near freezing, between 15 and 20 degrees, Oak Park treats streets with a liquid mixture of calcium chloride and beet juice, applied to salt. When it gets colder than 15 degrees, calcium chloride applied to salt is most effective.

So far, the beet-juice test run has gone well, and the village may look to expand its trial area of seven brick streets between Ridgeland and Austin. Spraying the solution buys village crews time before they come back later at night to salt streets.

Oak Park has been using beet juice since 2006, previously just using it to coat rock salt. The solution is expensive, but is friendlier for the environment and allows the village to save money on salt, according to Fenwick.

"I'm pleased with how the operation is going. I think we've attacked each of the storms pretty well," Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said last week.

-Marty Stempniak

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