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CDOT places ads touting liquid de-icers

Jane Stebbins

But Department of Transportation – also known as CDOT – hopes a new ad campaign will convince them otherwise.

Magnesium chloride has long been used along state highways to lower the freezing point of water, and thus, keep roadways free of snow and ice.

But clear roads come with a price – and with many liquid de-icers, it’s corroded electrical wiring and brakes in cars, eroded electrical lines in the ground and a sticky film that takes a lot of elbow grease to remove from windshields. And CDOT officials have taken the heat for it.

Agency spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said CDOT’s hotline received 50 to 100 phone calls last winter asking for information about the deicer. She alone spends about 10 hours a week talking with concerned drivers about the substance.

She hopes the ads – to be run in various mountain community newspapers – and three Front Range billboards will help reduce the phone volume and educate people in the process.

– The first ad reads: “Glorious Gunk. Whatever you call it, liquid de-icer reduces accidents.” Below that, it reads, “Watch your speed when de-icer has been sprayed.”

– The second ad reads: “Sublime Slime. Whatever you call it, liquid de-icer keeps highways open.” The line below reads, “Wash your car after you’ve driven on de-iced roads.

– The third reads, ” Gracious Goop. Whatever you call it, liquid de-icers saves lives.” The line below reads, “Fill up with wiper fluid before you drive on de-iced roads.”

The billboard at Interstate 70 and Dumont is expected to be read by 20,800 people each day. And two in the metro Denver area are expected to get 122,100 views daily.

Print and radio ads will tout the same message, but also remind drivers that de-icers don’t crack windshields or degrade air quality like gravel does.

It’s all in the name of safety, Stegman said. CDOT’s goals are to ensure that highways are safe and efficient for the traveling public.

CDOT rarely spends money on advertising, except for the Click it or Ticket and You Drink, You Drive, You Lose campaigns. Those cost $300,000 to $400,000 a year and are funded by federal dollars. This state-funded ad campaign will cost $55,000.

Stegman says it’s important to keep the message out there because Colorado is home to thousands of new residents – many of whom have never driven on ice or snow. CDOT officials plan to enforce the message to frequent highway users, including rental car and trucking companies and to agencies that dispense advice, including driving schools, chambers of commerce in resort towns and at Denver International Airport.

“We’re always going to use liquid de-icers from now on,” Stegman said. “We’re not using any product lightly. We put a lot of thought into what we do. We know it’s not a perfect product, but it’s the best possible product we could be using.”

That may be a tough sell those High Country drivers who are tired of the repercussions of the corrosive material. Stegman realizes the ad campaign won’t convince everyone.

But her data shows otherwise. According to CDOT, traffic volume increased 23 percent on Denver’s two major interstates in the past 12 years since CDOT began applying de-icers – and ice- and snow-related traffic accidents have decreased 14 percent.

“Undoubtedly, we’ll take some criticism,” Stegman said. “But if one person slows down on a treated road or stocks up on wiper fluid, it’s worth it to us.”


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