Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Measuring the Efficiencies of Tow Plows and Wing Plows

Problem

As agencies consider purchasing new types of snowplow equipment, it is important that they understand the trade-offs between equipment costs and potential gains in efficiency.  Tow plows and wing plows require an additional up-front investment, but these accessory plow configurations are designed to allow a plow operator to clear more snow in a single pass than a standard front plow alone. These plow configurations have the potential to provide efficiencies in terms of plow cycle time, labor and equipment allocation, operating costs, increased level of service, and more.

Objectives

This project’s goals were (1) to provide Clear Roads member states with a thorough understanding of the real-world costs, benefits and efficiencies associated with purchasing, operating, and maintaining tow plows and wing plows over the equipment’s entire life cycle, and (2) to provide tools to help guide states’ equipment purchases and their deployment of tow plows and wing plows on the roadways where they will yield the greatest efficiencies.

Results

Through a practitioner survey, testing/simulation, and analysis, this project created a spreadsheet-based Decision Support Tool to help agencies more accurately assess the efficiencies, costs of ownership, and return on investment for tow plows and wing plows and determine the best locations to deploy it. A companion Best Practices Guide will help agencies understand the considerations for purchasing, deploying and operating specific plow types.

The final webinar took place on January 21, 2022.

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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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Synthesis of Material Application Methodologies for Winter Operations

Problem

Transportation agencies have been managing their salt and liquid anti-icing applications based on the results of multiple testing efforts over the years. These agencies have gained significant practical experience in the use of chloride-based liquids for winter maintenance since the earlier guidelines were published, and have developed locally-based approaches for their use alone or with other winter materials.

However, discussions at recent National Winter Maintenance Peer Exchanges have repeatedly identified the need to update the existing guidelines for material application rates as a function of road weather scenarios in the field environment.

Objective

The goal of this project is to create a synthesis of best management practices for application rates, material application methodologies and material usage, including chloride brines applied directly or as additives to abrasives and rock salts.

Expected Results

A key deliverable of this project will be a handbook that is succinct, decisive in its instructions and recommendations, and professionally created. This handbook will provide winter maintenance professionals with the ability to access the needed information with ease and will be essential in driving the successful implementation of this project’s findings.

The Final Webinar took place on February 11, 2019.

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AWSSI Enhancements in Support of Winter Road Maintenance

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.

This project modified this tool to make it more useful to state DOTs as they prepare for future winter storms/seasons.

Objective

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

Results

A simple tool that states can use to conduct their own calculations in order to relate storm severity to other factors, such as winter maintenance costs.

Clear Roads Project 20-07, AWSSI Enhancements Phase 2, builds upon the enhancements completed during Project 16-02.

Tool

ACCUMULATED WINTER SEASON SEVERITY INDEX

The final webinar took place on February 26, 2019.

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Developing a Training Video and Manual for Best Practices and Techniques in Clearing Different Interchange Configurations and Other Geometric Layouts

Problem

There are many types of interchange configurations and intersection layouts that must be cleared during winter maintenance operations. These include, but are not limited to: diamond, cloverleaf, single-point urban interchange (SPUI), roundabout, Michigan left (boulevard turnaround), continuous flow intersection, diverging diamond, collector distributor lanes/interchange, and auxiliary turn lanes. There are numerous pass sequences that snow and ice professionals can use to clear a given snow route, intersection or interchange configuration. Agencies need a resource that provides guidance on the most efficient and effective means for snow removal utilizing common equipment setups.

Objective

This project involved researching and documenting current snow removal practices used by transportation agencies to determine the most efficient practices for clearing various interchange and intersection geometries. The goal was to develop resources that will help agencies better train their operators, justify the purchase of specialized equipment, manage resources, and improve service levels to the driving public.

Results

Researchers developed a 66-minute video (available below and as a video series) that showcases the most efficient pass sequences for plowing 10 different interchange and intersection layouts. A practice manual and reference cards complement the video training.

The final webinar took place on October 18, 2018.

Animations of Interchange and Intersection Clearing Best Practices
(Full Video)

 

Intersection/Interchange Animations

Introduction to Animations Roundabout Intersection
Four-Leg Intersection Displaced Left-Turn Intersection

Median U-Turn Intersection

Double Roundabout Interchange
Diamond Interchange Cloverleaf Interchange
Single-Point Interchange Diverging Diamond Interchange
Directional T Interchange
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Utilization of AVL/GPS Technology: Case Studies

Problem

Much is known about what winter maintenance AVL/GPS technologies are available from different vendors as well as which highway agencies are making use of them. Among other sources, these have been documented through Clear Roads project 14-01: Synthesis on GPS/AVL Equipment Used for Winter Maintenance. However, highway agencies will significantly benefit from a deeper examination of winter maintenance AVL/GPS implementation.

Objective

The goal of this project was to help state DOTs make more informed decisions with respect to implementation of winter maintenance AVL/GPS.

Results

Detailed agency case studies were developed in this project to bring to light more nuanced issues related to winter maintenance AVL/GPS. These case studies highlight the types of issues that agencies should consider, provide guidance for successful implementation, and can serve as templates to help agencies get the best value out of different levels of AVL/GPS applications.

The Final Webinar was held on August 31, 2018.

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Training Video for the Implementation of Liquid-Only Plow Routes

Problem

While some agencies have used liquid-only plow routes with great success, others are unable to secure the buy-in needed to implement this practice. Clear Roads believes this is largely a communication issue—a need to put the right message in front of the right audience in a compelling way and to dispel myths and misconceptions.

Objective

The goal of this project was to help state DOTs garner support for and accelerate the implementation of liquid-only plow routes.

Results

This project resulted in the creation of two videos designed to explain the benefits of liquid-only plow routes, the fundamentals of how and when to use liquid-only plowing, and steps to implement a program.

The final webinar took place on May 23, 2018.

 

Implementation of Liquid-Only Plow Routes (Full Video)

 

Implementation of Liquid-Only Plow Routes (Short Video)

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