News

Why Did Houston’s Roads Freeze Even After Treatment?

Houston roads saw some of the toughest conditions crews are able to treat

Governor Greg Abbott posted this photo on his Twitter account on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. The photo shows icy roads near La Grange.

Crews from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) worked late into Tuesday night after roads and bridges around the state froze over.

The de-icing treatment, consisting of a saltwater brine, a mixture of sand and salt, and later a chemical product called MeltDown 20, is standard practice for winter road maintenance, but ultimately did not stop freeways and overpasses from freezing. 

Met with freezing rain and temperatures in the low 20s and upper 10s, crews had to combat what officials say is one of the hardest combinations of winter weather conditions.

“It’s difficult when you have the precipitation that we had in addition to the very cold weather,” said Quincy Allen, District Engineer for TxDOT Houston. “Using a saltwater solution with rain and sleet on top of it — that makes it a challenge,” Allen said.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation agreed with Allen, saying the methods TxDOT used to treat roads in Houston and throughout the state are similar to those used around the country.

Officials said districts must weight the benefits and potential hazards of road treatment, including whether some treatments could eventually make roads more hazardous and a treatment’s impact on the environment.

The variety of factors that come with an ice storm, including specific and minute weather conditions and extending to the type of pavement used on any individual road, one official said, makes decisions about road treatment difficult and non-uniform.

Share

Davis Land

Davis Land

Senior Producer

Davis Land is a senior producer at Houston Public Media. He cut his teeth at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, MA and at WBUR in Boston. His work has appeared on various public radio programs and podcasts including Texas Standard, Here and Now, and Marketplace. Davis is a graduate...

More Information