Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Review and Summary of Pre-wet Methods and Procedures

Problem

While previous research has been done in this area, gaps in knowledge existed and further investigation was needed to identify the most effective materials, equipment and methods for pre-wetting.

Objectives

This project’s goal was to create a compilation of relevant recent knowledge, data and guidance, as well as detailed descriptions of current national and international agency practices regarding on-board pre-wetting of solids, specifically focusing on the areas of materials, equipment and methods (including application rates and vehicle speed).

Results

This compilation provides guidance to transportation agencies seeking to effectively employ the practice of pre-wetting of solid materials in their winter highway maintenance protocols. A Phase II project is planned, which will combine the results of both phases to produce a comprehensive guide to pre-wetting.

The Final Webinar took place on June 10, 2021.

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AWSSI Enhancements, Phase 2

Problem

State DOTs are always looking for ways to better prepare for winter storms/seasons, but this is a difficult proposition because tools and software programs to provide this kind of information are not commonplace.

The Accumulated Winter Season Severity Index (AWSSI) is a simple and straightforward tool that was developed by the Midwestern Regional Climate Center using nonproprietary data that is available from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for numerous locations within each state.

The first iteration of this project modified this tool to make it more useful to state DOTs as they prepare for future winter storms/seasons. The second phase of this project made further improvements to the tool.

Objective

The objective of this project was to continue to expand on the current AWSSI tool to add more stations and provide additional features to allow for winter severity projections and connect winter severity to winter maintenance costs.

Results

This project continued the process of improving the tool developed by the MRCC. This iteration added additional locations to the AWSSI tool; updated the average AWSSI seasonal total map through the 2019-2020 season; added the ability to download the daily seasonal data for any given station during the current season; and provided the user with the ability to add up to five specific historical seasons to be included in any station’s current year chart.

Tool

ACCUMULATED WINTER SEASON SEVERITY INDEX

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Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables

Problem

Storm Severity Index and Winter Severity Index are important measures in comparing individual storms and annual winter weather severity. Currently, there is no standard set of variables used in connection with these indexes. While an agency can review and compare its variables with similar variables used by other agencies, the lack of a uniform set of variables measured in a consistent manner precludes agencies from effectively comparing the winter-related inputs such as the labor and materials used to perform winter maintenance.

Objectives

  • Identify state, national and international agencies using SSI and/or WSI.
  • Determine the variables and measurement methods used to create the indexes. (A variable of particular interest to Clear Roads states was freezing rain.)
  • Gather statistical data resulting from analysis of each variable for consistency and variability.
  • Recommend the most reliable variables, with the highest correlation to storm severity, for developing SSI/WSI.
  • Create a flexible spreadsheet tool that allows agencies to develop a state-specific SSI/WSI.

Results

Researchers created a step-by-step guide and a flowchart tool to help agencies identify or develop severity index methods that fit their needs and their available data sources. Once implemented, these severity indexes will allow winter maintenance managers, researchers and transportation agencies to more effectively compare winter operations among localized areas, districts and states. Agencies are also better able to compare individual storms across years, which in turn allows them to more accurately evaluate the impacts of innovations and new winter maintenance methods.

The Final Webinar took place on December 22, 2020.

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Defensive Driving for Snowplow Operators

Problem

Each winter, snowplows are struck by other vehicles, costing agencies money in repair and replacement costs and impacting traveler safety due to lost plowing time. Rear-end collisions and crashes during turning movements are two common types of crashes. Although snowplow operators are rarely at fault in these crashes, training operators on defensive driving practices—as well as reviewing general safe driving practices—may help reduce the likelihood of collisions caused by other drivers.

Objective

The goal of this project was to examine key causes of collisions involving snowplows and other vehicles, and identify defensive driving strategies that snowplow operators can use to reduce the likelihood of being struck by other drivers.

Results

This project resulted in the creation of two PowerPoint-based training modules on safe driving and defensive driving for snowplow operators. The modules include videos that demonstrate defensive and safe driving scenarios.

This project was featured in an article in the October 2021 issue of APWA Reporter.

 

The Final Webinar took place on August 13, 2020.

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Alternative Methods for Deicing

Problem

The public’s increasing demands for higher levels of service and ice-free conditions are requiring agencies to apply greater amounts of chloride-based materials, which increases material, equipment and labor costs. State and local units of government are continually assessing the need to balance LOS goals with winter maintenance costs and the negative impacts winter maintenance materials can have on the environment.

Objective

The goal of this project was to help state DOTs and local transportation agencies better understand the performance, cost and environmental impacts of alternative deicing materials; understand the application methods currently used in the field; and compare the performance and impacts of alternative winter maintenance materials with chloride-based materials.

Results

This project produced case studies and recommendations on the use of alternative methods of deicing. These results lay the groundwork for future research to identify and conduct the testing and analysis needed to develop research-based best practices for the use of alternative deicing materials that achieve comparable snow melt and can be used in place of or to supplement chloride-based materials.

This project was featured in an article in the September 2021 issue of Roads & Bridges magazine.

The Final Webinar took place on May 4, 2020.

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Standard Specifications for Plow Blades with Carbide Inserts

Problem

Carbide inserts provide a life expectancy 10 to 20 times longer than traditional steel blades. This extended longevity has proven to save time and resources for winter maintenance agencies around the country. Unfortunately, there are no common procurement specifications for carbide inserts, and agencies use a wide variety of requirements.

Still, many agencies do have experience using standards developed for the use of plow blades with carbide inserts. This project gathered information from these users and from carbide insert manufacturers, distributors and vendors to compile a set of standard specifications that can be used and shared among Clear Roads members and others.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop a set of standard specifications that can be used by agencies across the country to specify carbide-insert plow blades. State DOTs currently specify a variety of carbide-insert blades, and having a common specifications used by many of the 36 Clear Roads states would simplify and streamline the procurement process for state DOTs and vendors. The buying power connected to a widely accepted specification would be greater, and procurement coalitions could potentially use the standard specifications for bidding. In addition, if more agencies specified the same product, vendors could reduce their costs and pass those savings on to state DOTs. The standard specifications would provide a starting point for agencies that want to develop their own specifications. Counties and cities would also be able to take advantage of the specifications.

Results

This project produced a set of standard specifications addressing the following:

  • Carbide inserts, geometry, and dimensions
  • Blade materials, assembly details, and dimensions
  • Plow blade configuration (front, underbody, or tow blade) and blade dimensions (length and height)
  • Quality assurance inspections and accept/reject procedures
  • Details of procedures to accept/reject inserts

Specifications include text and AutoCAD details of insert dimensions, insert material, blade dimensions, and mounting details (including bolt pattern and inside measurements, amount of insert inside a blade, and blade/insert mounting configuration).

The Final Webinar took place on March 25, 2020.

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Recruitment and Retention of Highway Maintenance Workers

Problem

The general lack of drivers from the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the retiring of Baby Boomers, coupled with long hours and frigid work conditions, contributes to state DOTs’ struggles to find and retain highway maintenance workers.

Objectives

This project’s goal was to provide state DOTs with information that can be used to more effectively recruit and retain highway maintenance workers. A related objective was to develop objective data about state DOTs’ recruitment and retention challenges that can be presented to state legislative committees or upper management in order to influence agency policy.

Results

This project developed a concise guide of innovative but practical ways for DOTs to recruit and retain a highly proficient, productive, versatile, and committed roadway maintenance workforce. The final report includes case studies in several categories, including recruitment programs, retention strategies, recruitment and retention for underserved communities, recruitment and retention of the next generation, and capturing information to inform program improvements.

The Final Webinar took place on June 21, 2021.

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Weather Event Reconstruction and Analysis Tool

Problem

After a storm, transportation agencies need to conduct after-action studies and prepare after-action reports. To do this, data from numerous sources needs to be accessed, collected, and analyzed. These data may be difficult to access and use for a number of reasons. They may not be easy to find, or it may be difficult to parse readily available data. Some kinds of data may also be difficult to export, particularly video of radar or forecast maps.

Objective

The goal of this project was to allow transportation agencies to more quickly and easily reconstruct winter weather events, with a focus on drawing from data sources that cover the entire United States or large regions.

Results

This project developed an easy-to-use web-based tool that gathers existing online weather data for a specific location and time and prepares the results in a single clear and comprehensive report. By using the tool, agencies will be able to spend much less time finding and preparing weather data before moving to analysis and follow-up. This will help agencies better understand the development and outcomes of winter storms, react appropriately to such events in the short and long term, and refine future maintenance decision-making.

WEATHER EVENT RECONSTRUCTION AND ANALYSIS TOOL

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Developing Test Bed Software to Qualify Plug and Play Technology

Background

Clear Roads has been leading a Plug-and-Play Initiative to specify a universal bi-directional communications protocol for in-cab electronics, regardless of the manufacturer or service provider. Establishment of this protocol will mutually benefit Clear Roads member states and their vendors by standardizing how critical operational data are shared on modern snow and ice vehicles, namely between compatible Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) devices and anti-icing/deicing joystick and spreader controller systems.

Previous research efforts under the Clear Roads Plug-and-Play Initiative include Phase 1 and Phase 2.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop a software suite to validate and certify candidate spreader controllers and AVL equipment for compliance with the current Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Performance Specification and Communications Protocol.

Results

Researchers developed a software suite that includes three components:

  1. SQL database: Stores test parameters and vendor/equipment information.
  2. Web portal: Web application used by both vendors and Clear Roads members. Vendors use the portal to initiate and complete the certification process, and Clear Roads members can then view lists of compliant equipment and test results.
  3. Device test application: A Windows-based application that performs the testing, provides feedback to the user, and communicates the results to the SQL database. Vendors can download the device test application after registering through the web portal.

CLEAR ROADS TEST BED PORTAL

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Standards and Guidance for Using Mobile Sensor Technology to Assess Winter Road Conditions

Problem

Today, data collected by vehicle-mounted sensors are useful but limited. For a given parameter (for example, grip, road condition, water film height, etc.), sensors from different manufacturers may provide disparate values under the same conditions, making the information hard to interpret across manufacturers.

Moreover, even when a given manufacturer’s measurement scales are well understood, the resulting set of measured values for an array of parameters (road condition, grip, road temperature, dew point temperature, water film height and others) are not easily translated into unambiguous guidance: what are the road conditions, how can they be characterized in terms of a performance measure, and what operational steps should a maintenance agency take?

Objective

Through rigorous testing of sensor equipment, development of standardized scales, and creation of guidance for using an array of measurements in concert for decision-making, Clear Roads will make better use of road sensor data than is now currently available.

Expected Results

The guidance developed from this project will help in multiple aspects of winter maintenance—in the short-term for responding to a winter storm in real time, and in the long-term in making policy and planning decisions based on performance trends. It will also help practitioners avoid guesswork by providing guidance based on vetted equipment and reliable numerical standards.

The Final Webinar took place on April 11, 2019.

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