Heated roadways

I’ve always wished the roads were heated from underneath to melt the snow and ice that hazards drivers.
How plauisble would this be?
Too expensive?
Too many consequences(re: flooding)?

It would probably be expensive - you’d have to heat the whole stretch of road even when there were no cars on it; if it got really cold (too cold for the system to cope with), the melted snow would re-freeze to form black ice which is worse than snow.

If there was a convenient free source of heat (say waste heat from a nuclear power plant), it might be workable for a small area, but it seems like throwing a heck of a lot of energy away for a very small benefit.

It’s too expensive to do on all major highways, but various snow-melting systems are used in select locations - steep inclines, tight curves, busy city streets, etc. Try a google search for “snow melting system.”

I have seen short sections of roadway (Overpasses) heated using Geothermal heat. It worked well but it was too expensive to install and maintain for anything more than that.

They had also used it with some of the sidewalks in town.

Here in Klamath Falls, geothermal heat is used on downtown sidewalks and roadway bridges. But Tannim is right, it’s too expensive to maintain for use on all the roads. It’s also used for heat in my home, but the underground piping has insulation that has apparently worn away. It follows the main water line into my house, and if you turn on the cold water in the morning, it comes out hot for about five minutes, even though it’s 20 degrees outside.

In the future, I will stick with fossil fuels!

Snowmass Village near Aspen, CO, has some heated roadways in the steep section near the mall. I don’t know what system they use, but it works very well, and keeps a steep, twisty section of road, that is also a fairly well travelled area, safe even in nasty conditions.

The driveway at our house is steep, and has two electrically heated pads in stips down the driveway where the car’s tires would drive. It works quite well, but it is fantasically expensive to operate. Scaling this up to an entire road would be prohibitively expensive, IMO.


“Black ice” is ice that forms on the road when the air temp is above freezing and the road is below freezing, causing water to condense and freeze on the road. It is particularly dangerous because it is hard to see (being very thin) and it forms at times when few people expect ice problems (air temp above freezing and no precipitation).

So while it is possible that the melted snow could refreeze, it wouldn’t be “Black ice”