Connecticut bill would put road treatments under review

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Monday, March 24, 2014

A Connecticut bill would slow corrosion on vehicles and the state’s roadways.

The Joint Committee on Transportation heard testimony on a bill to develop a plan to reduce the use of magnesium chloride as a de-icer to help clear the state’s roadways during winter road treatment.

Specifically, the Connecticut Department of Transportation would be responsible for examining the treatment’s effect on vehicles, roads and the environment.

Sponsored by Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, he said something needs to be done to help protect trucks and other vehicles from accelerated rusting of undercarriages.

“Constituents are very upset that this chemical is causing their car brake-lines to corrode and that it may be contributing to the breakdown of materials used in the construction of our bridges,” Welch said in a news release.

Welch and the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut want the state to add rust inhibitors to the saltwater mix now applied to roadways.

According to state estimates, about 1 million gallons of the magnesium chloride salt mix is used annually. DOT officials estimate that adding a rust inhibitor would cost up to 20 cents more per gallon – or as much as $200,000 a year.

Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, told committee members the substances used to prevent snow and ice from accumulating have been effective. However, he said there is a trade-off for vehicles.

“These substances have corroded electrical components, deteriorated brake parts and even caused corrosion on the main frame of many vehicles,” Riley testified. “It is clear to truckers that the damage which these substances cause is widespread and expensive.”

HB5288 calls for the state DOT to evaluate alternative products and treatments and report their findings to the committee in one year.

Transportation Commissioner James Redeker told lawmakers the agency is doing the best they can.

Redeker wrote in a letter early this year to Riley “there is currently not an alternative application that works with any amount of effectiveness that is not corrosive.”

Two more bills of interest discussed by the committee cover household goods movers and highway safety.

The first bill would tweak the criteria in granting certification of household goods carriers.

Connecticut law now gives the state DOT authority to grant startups approval to do business in the state based on a “public need for the service.” Owners of existing household goods companies are given a say in the process.

SB34 would remove the provision that gives potential competitors a say in whether a business is approved.

“I’d like to believe that the free market determines whether or not there is a need for a particular service, not state government,” Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, told lawmakers.

The Joint Committee on Transportation voted unanimously to advance SB34 for further consideration.

One more bill is intended to improve safety on state highways by establishing “red zones.”

HB5291 would require the state to establish red zones any place where two lanes merge into one lane.

Vehicles traveling in a red zone would be required to merge out of the affected area as soon as possible. Drivers would also be prohibited from passing another vehicle in the designated area.

Redeker testified that federal rules prohibit such traffic control devices.

“The theory behind merging traffic where a lane ends is that both vehicles will adjust their speed to merge safely,” Redeker said in written remarks. “Assigning priority to one vehicle over another will create potential aggressive driving behavior in the vehicle given priority and may lead to road rage and crashes.”

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