Operations Enabling Emptiness

Road Salt Traces & Trajectories

These mappings trace out the industrial ecologies of roadway melt; the systems that transform our highways, bi-ways, and city streets from seasonably passable, climatically contingent networks to eminently open, logistical lines.

Situating Infrastructural Ecologies

Today, between 52-53% of national salt consumption is devoted to seasonal roadway clearance. The Northeast metropolitan corridor (unsurprisingly) consumes a disproportionate amount of this de-icing supply. Density of development, temperate jet-stream and liminal lake effect collude for climatic impact; Snowbanks sabotage J.I.T. supply chains. Blizzards bury business hours. Winter road closures cost the economy as much as $10 billion per day. In 2008, 11.7 million tons of road salt were applied here.

Uncovering Mundane Agents

This series of road salt mappings extends a critical, excavative agenda; they seek to make visible the elements embedded in our automotive infrastructure, those efforts making roadway emptiness and access possible. Beginning from road salt usage in New York and the Northeast Corridor, this portrait proceeds through a nested series of quantitative geographies, uncovering the energy, envelopes, agents, trips, trade, territories, mechanisms and symbiotic scenarios of salt procurement and distribution.


Meg Studer conducted the research and developed the infographics (above) for the collaborative exhibition, Geologic City: A Field Guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York, with Smudge Studios (Elizabeth Ellsworth and Jamie Kruse). It included boards, booklets, and annotated environments as on-going research into the anthropocene appropriation of lithics.

  • python/csv – misc. web scrubbing of state procurement sites
  • gis – geocoding and quantitative maps
  • excel/ai – phasing/sankey/etc. summary graphics and style standards

Sublimated Maintenance Regimes

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