3 Envtl. Aff. 128 (1974)
Costs and Benefits of Road Salting

handle is hein.journals/bcenv3 and id is 140 raw text is: COSTS AND BENEFITS OF ROAD SALTING

By Robert C. Anderson*
Charles Auster**
The use of salt on highways has increased eighteen fold in the past
twenty years, principally because it is perceived as an inexpensive
and efficient means of clearing snowy highways to bare pavement.
The assumed connection between bare pavement policies and high-
way safety has frequently been offered as a justification for the
increased use of salt.' Others have argued that the use of salt has
several external diseconomies, or costs that are not borne by the user
directly. Among the costs cited are those associated with the corro-
sion of automobiles, damage to highways and highway structures,
damage to roadside vegetation, pollution of water supplies and
damage to wildlife.2 None of the above mentioned factors has been
the subject of careful scrutiny on economic grounds. It is the pur-
pose of this paper to bring together, where possible, the results of
other studies, to supplement them with our own research, and to
produce an evaluation of the gains and losses to society from each
of these factors. We conclude it is quite likely that the social costs
from salting far exceed the social benefits and that the use of salt
for highway de-icing should be sharply reduced.
It has been widely assumed that the use of salt for highway de-
icing lowers accident rates and saves travel time. Evidence of a
reduction in accident rates attributable to the use of salt is inconclu-
sive. For example, Arvai, in an analysis of individual accidents in
selected Michigan counties and cities, found that as the use of salt
increased the percentage of accidents occurring under icy conditions
decreased.3 This is to be expected since salt reduces the frequency
of exposure to icy conditions. He also noted an increase in the total
number of winter accidents with increased usage of salt. Unfortun-

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