11/16/2000

Vaseline Alleys, in the state
that's known for its "Gasoline Alley"

By Dick Lavinthal
PoliceOne.com Editor

(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) - Three Indiana bridges turned into "Vaseline Alleys" yesterday when an apparently over-sprayed chemical mixture supposed to prevent icing instead made the roadways as slick as glass, police said.

So many minor accidents occurred before highway officials could sand the structures that police had to ration accident investigations. "We had to tell motorists to exchange information and contact their insurance companies," Patrol Officer Michael Joyner, Fort Wayne Police Department spokesman, told PoliceOne.com.

The exact number of collisions for which officers took reports was not available but Joyner said that the incidents had, "all our resources tied up." No injuries were reported, he added.

Department of Transportation workers had sprayed a trademarked product called "Caliber," onto bridges on Clinton Street, Spy Run Avenue and Coliseum Boulevard when passing vehicles began sliding all over the roadway.

It took a Department of Transportation convoy of seven sand-filled trucks to make passage safe on each of the bridges and the access road to them. Vehicles had tracked the slippery liquid onto those roads as well, according to authorities. Between the 11 a.m. chemical application and the 12:40 opening of affected roads traffic was tied up across north, central and eastern areas of Fort Wayne, officials said.

Dan Thompson, CEO of Minnesota Corn Processors, the Marshall, Iowa, company that licenses the mixture and the process used to create it to manufacturers told PoliceOne.com that yesterday's Indiana incident was the result of spraying too much chemical on the bridges

The product comes with specific "pounds per lane" application limits, Thompson said. In Fort Wayne it "appears that it was applied three times too heavily." As a result the roadways received "an ocean of it [the chemical mixture]." One clue to over application was that vehicle tires were "tracking the product over a mile" from where it was applied. "This shouldn't be the case," Thompson added

The roadway spray rate is supposed to be 15 pounds for lane mile, Thompson said, adding that yesterday's complaint was the first he has heard in the two years that he has licensed Caliber production.

Jim Rose, CEO of Syntech Products, the Akron, Ohio licensed manufacturer/blender that sold the product to the transportation department said he is testing a sample of the magnesium sulfide and corn-based mixture. The product has been used in Colorado where they have "a lot of snow and it has been extremely effective," Rose told PoliceOne.com.

Thompson, of Minnesota Corn Processors, said complete application instructions are provided to licensees who, in turn, provide them to their customers.

Esther Gamble, communications specialist for the Indiana Department of Transportation told PoliceOne.com that all the department's operating engineers were "meeting today to go over what happened. We've used it before for a number of bridges and never had a problem." The same people and the same equipment that applied the chemical mixture yesterday had done so earlier Gamble said

"Magnesium chloride is slick as baby oil," Fort Wayne police officer David Keener, who responded to a minor accident on Spy Run, told the Indianapolis Star. "Within a matter of minutes, I had cars skidding in all directions. It looked like a NASCAR wreck."

Among agencies responding to the "slip-up" were emergency workers, from the Fort Wayne Police and Fire Departments, the highway department, and the Indiana Department of Emergency Management.

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