Million-dollar project aims to make winter travel safer

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Slide-offs, crashes, and traffic gridlock are all common sights during the winter, when the weather turns bad and the snow and ice cover the roads.

Salt trucks are the first defense, but new technology may also help in places where's it's most slick and dangerous.

But that technology comes at a big price - a million dollars, to be exact, on one Interstate 69 overpass at the Delaware-Grant county line.

When you drive down the road you want to make sure you are in the safe lane. INDOT agrees and is investing one million dollars to prove it.

"We have had a lot of issues with trucks running off the road in this area," Samantha De Sollar, an INDOT Project Engineer pointed out as Eyewitness News surveyed the project Wednesday afternoon.

There have been 22 accidents in this stretch of I-69 in the last four years, with most directly attributed to black ice.

So INDOT is putting down a new overlay surface called "Safelane."

"It absorbs the brine and then snow removal material and then releases it once it gets cold enough," De Sollar explained.

Cargill, which markets Safelane, has released a video showing how it works. The temperature starts at 39 degrees and then drops all the down to 11 degrees. You see concrete on the left and asphalt on the right. Safeline is in the middle.

"This is a better product. It's a better solution to all the accidents we are having. Asphalt would just cover it up," the Purdue trained engineer added.

"Slowly releases when you need it, but it's gotta be some storage in there somewhere, how do you get it in there?" said truck driver Randy Slusher.

His question is a valid one. The answer is, the road trucks that service I-69 would treat the overpass the same as always, but this time, it will be absorbed to be used only when it reaches a certain temperature.

"I've got a 300-foot concrete driveway. I'd like my driveway to be done like that when it snows. That would be kind of neat wouldn't it," Slusher gushed.

De Sollar says drivers won't even notice a difference driving over the new surface.

"They shouldn't. It should be a smooth transition," De Sollar noted.

It certainly is anything but smooth, but that allows for better friction, which aids the process. We actually drove over it in the southbound lane, which is already completed and while the sound is different, the ride is normal.

"This is an epoxy over, it spilled out underneath and then the aggregate on top of it," De Sollar said as she crouched down to point it out along the southbound lane of I-69.

The goal is to cut down on the amount of accidents that occur here, to make all four lanes on this overpass "Safelanes."