Beet juice to be tested as highway de-icer

The State Thruway Authority is using sugar beet juice to boost the de-icing power of road salt.

The Thruway's Syracuse Division is launching a pilot program this winter to test the effectiveness of sugar beet juice mixed with liquid brine and salt. The Albany area experimented with the mixture last winter with success.

Beet juice works to lower the freezing point of water and highway officials hope it will allow them to reduce the amount of chemicals they use to melt snow and ice. That will save money as well as reduce environmental damage.

Sugar beets are a major crop in Michigan and other Midwest states. After sugar is extracted from the juice, the sticky, brown residue is used to make road de-icing products such as GeoMelt and IceBite.

Thruway officials anticipate that using beet juice in the Syracuse area will give them a better idea of how well the new system will work in a snowier area.