Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Identifying Best Practices for Snowplow Route Optimization

Problem

Roadway snow and ice control constitutes a substantial expenditure for many northern and Midwestern states throughout the winter and spring months. Properly maintaining the roadways in these states involves complicated decisions regarding the staging, routing, and refueling of the vehicle fleets that are responsible for plowing roadways and spreading deicers. Optimizing statewide fleet operations includes three distinct problems: 1) how best to divide the network into service territories, 2) how best to allocate winter maintenance vehicles among these territories, and 3) how best to route vehicles within the various divisions. Agencies also want to assess facility locations to identify opportunities for greater efficiency.

Objective

The purpose of this project was to identify best practices at state agencies for route optimization and facility placement, including the use of commercial off-the-shelf software.

Results

This project created a synthesis report on snowplow route optimization, including a straightforward comparison matrix that illustrates the pros and cons of the route optimization efforts that have been undertaken by winter maintenance agencies to date. Given the potential cost savings associated with optimization of winter maintenance operations, state DOTs in snow states stand to reap considerable benefits by optimizing their snowplow routing.

The final webinar presentation was given on November 1, 2016.

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Synthesis on GPS/AVL Equipment Used for Winter Maintenance

Problem

Many states are interested in testing or implementing GPS/AVL systems to gather information on their winter maintenance programs, including truck location, truck speeds, material usage rates, etc. There are a variety of tools and equipment involved in these systems, including truck controllers, data collection devices, cell phone or Wi-Fi, plow sensors, and data schemas that allow synthesis of the range of data collected. Clear Roads members would like to better understand the array of options on the market.

Objective

To help states better understand the options available (systems and components) for varying situations and truck configurations, this project sought to develop a clearinghouse of information based on state experiences with GPS/AVL.

Results

The key outcome of this project was to develop a “consumer reports” type of digest analyzing the different GPS/AVL systems available, including how well each one performs, and systems requirements and constraints.

The final webinar presentation was given on May 23, 2016.

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Understanding the Effectiveness of Non-Chloride Liquid Agricultural By-Products and Solid Complex Chloride/Mineral Products Used in Snow and Ice Control Operations

Problem

It has become increasingly common to use agricultural by-products and solid complex chloride/mineral products as additives to deicer products for corrosion inhibition and performance enhancement, or as stand-alone treatments for ice and snow prevention. Manufacturer claims made about these products include freeze depressant qualities, ability to prolong performance of deicers on the road surface, the ability to attract and utilize UV light as an aid to ice prevention, and various environmental benefits. However, the effectiveness of these products and the mechanism by which they work are not well documented.

Potential users need quantifiable research to validate performance and verify the chemical or physical processes by which the products are of value in winter maintenance. This information will also aid agencies in developing better procurement specifications that address the most important attributes for the various product types.

Objective

The goal of this project was to determine and document the effectiveness of nine commonly-used non-chloride liquid agricultural by-products and one well-known solid complex chloride/mineral product used in snow and ice control operations. The results will improve the industry’s understanding of the performance and environmental impact of these chemicals. The project included development of better parameters and guidelines for using such products and specifications for the procurement and testing of these products.

Results

The final report contains a Best Practices Manual, which includes the following:

  • Parameters for effective use of agricultural and mineral by-products based on analysis of the existing literature, survey responses, and lab testing.
  • Specifications that can be used in procurement for each product. The specifications will document the measurable properties of the material that are indicators of field performance.
  • Application and storage guidelines.

The final webinar presentation was given on November 19, 2015.

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Roadway Salt Best Management Practices

Problem

The 2013-2014 winter season proved to be challenging to roadway maintenance authorities; even before the winter season was officially over, salt stock piles and winter maintenance budgets had been severely depleted. The purpose of this project was to investigate the problems and successes of state DOTs in dealing with the salt shortages that occurred and to develop a best practices handbook that can be used to guide agencies in the best practices.

Objective

The goal of this project was to investigate and analyze issues related to deicing chemical supplies during the winter of 2013-2014. The investigation covered the available supply of deicing chemicals with a primary focus on road salt. The project identified where there were problems and why the problems existed. The goal was to have this project completed before the start of the winter of 2015-2016 so the best practices can influence operations during the winter as well as procurement and other logistics in the winters to come.

Results

A manual of best practices for procurement, storage, and use of salt.

This project was featured in an article in the October 2016 issue of APWA Reporter magazine.

The final presentation webinar took place on December 11, 2015.

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Use Of Equipment Lighting During Snowplow Operations

Problem

Many states are struggling to find the right balance between making trucks as visible to the traveling public as possible and ensuring that their drivers have the best possible visibility of the road and vehicles around them. Equipment operators in the snowy regions are reporting that warning lights are too bright, especially for plow truck drivers following behind another truck during train-type snow removal operations. Additionally, snowplow operators are experiencing reflected light off the plow from headlights on their own vehicles. Research is needed to determine the best practices and optimal configurations of headlights, work lights, and warning light technology during snow removal operations.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop a synthesis of best practices in use today by state DOTs in their use of headlights, work lights, and warning light technology in snow plow operations.

Results

A synthesis report of best practices that presents the pros and cons of different types of lights, lighting configurations and technology in use currently by agencies engaged in winter maintenance activities. The synthesis includes a recommended lighting package with sample specifications and mounting location guidelines.

Final presentation webinar was conducted on October 5, 2015.

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Cost-Benefit of Various Winter Maintenance Strategies

Problem

When responding to winter storm events, state transportation departments are faced with many decisions regarding which winter maintenance strategies to employ. These choices impact the level of service, the overall cost to the department and to highway users, and safety. Different strategies provide different results in terms of the road surface condition and mobility for the highway user.

DOTs seeking to minimize costs to both the agency and the driving public are constantly seeking to optimize their winter maintenance strategies. Cost considerations for the agency include (but are not limited to) the costs of plowing and applying abrasives or chemicals, the economic impact of adjusting level of service relative to public mobility, and the cost of chemical corrosion and abrasive wear on application equipment, highway infrastructure, and the personal property of highway users. Safety is also a critical consideration.

Agencies need a way to determine which strategies will allow them to most effectively deliver the appropriate level of service for a given roadway while supporting strategic goals of both safety and economy.

Objective

The goal of this project was to assess and communicate the costs and benefits of three different winter maintenance strategies in the following areas:

  • Agency cost to achieve and maintain a level of service
  • Economic impacts, such as the mobility cost impacts on highway users due to the level of service delivered
  • Impacts of corrosion on highway equipment, users, and infrastructure
  • Impact of abrasive wear and tear on highway equipment, users, and infrastructure
  • Safety impacts of changes to level of service

Results

A matrix of strategies and impacts that is concisely and clearly written for a broad audience of stakeholders, including winter maintenance professionals, DOT management, legislators and the public.

The final presentation webinar was held on September 17, 2015.

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Snow and Ice Control Environmental Best Management Practices Manual

Problem

Over the last several decades, best management practices have been developed to minimize the volume of chlorides that are introduced into our roadside environments each winter. However, many stakeholders are currently guiding policy discussions towards the chlorides themselves without a complete understanding of the impacts of alternatives maintenance materials or the proactive steps that agencies can take to ensure that their snow and ice programs are utilizing the most current and effective strategies.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop a comprehensive Snow and Ice Control Environmental Best Management Practices (BMP) Manual that will provide the most up-to-date recommendations for winter highway maintenance. The purpose was to help articulate responsible snow and ice control practices for DOT staff, legislators and other interested parties, so that the priorities of safety, efficiency, cost and environmental protection can be appropriately balanced.

Results

The key outcome of this project is a national Snow and Ice Control Environmental Best Management Practices Manual that provides the most up-to-date recommendations, based on a foundation of leading research and resources nationwide.

This project was featured in an article in the September 2015 issue of Roads and Bridges magazine.

The final presentation webinar took place on June 24, 2015.

 

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Best Practices for the Prevention of Corrosion to DOT Equipment: A User’s Manual

Problem

Corrosion to maintenance equipment resulting from the use of chloride deicers is a challenge for transportation agencies across North America. While there are many products and much anecdotal guidance for the prevention of corrosion, there is not a consolidated guide that combines all of the available knowledge on corrosion prevention for use by snow and ice control practitioners. Such a manual could aid the entire winter maintenance community in the prevention of corrosion and the extension of equipment life.

In the 2013 final report for the project on Best Practices and Guidelines for Protecting DOT Equipment from the Corrosive Effect of Chemical Deicers, the researchers identified the need for additional study to bridge existing knowledge gaps relevant to this subject. This includes research on the long-term effectiveness of practices or products for corrosion protection; minimizing the risk of premature failure of the post-assembly coatings; the synergistic use of washing and inhibitors; and the study of metallic components. Finally, research is needed to develop guidelines on the best practices for preventing deicer corrosion.

Objective

This goal of this project was to develop guidelines for corrosion management on highway maintenance equipment.

Results

A guide that summarizes in layman’s terms the best practices to prevent corrosion to maintenance equipment.

This final presentation webinar took place on May 18, 2015.

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Weather Severity Mapping Enhancement

Problem

In 2012, Clear Roads completed a project to develop weather severity maps of the U.S. The project responded to state DOT needs for comparing their operations with other states with similar weather severity. These comparisons allow states to identify opportunities for reducing spending or improving levels of service. By analyzing the weather severity in snow and ice states, the researchers developed a methodology to map weather severity across the regions and states. The resulting maps depict winter weather severity across the U.S. in a manner similar to the plant hardiness zone maps used for agriculture.

As individual Clear Roads states have been using these maps in presentations within their agencies, they found that state-specific maps would better allow them to focus on their own weather patterns or patterns within their region. High quality versions of the maps were needed that would include scale, title, credits, etc.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop a state-focused version of each of the five weather severity maps (hours of blowing snow; hours of freezing rain; hours of snowfall; inches of snow and overall severity) for each of the 29 member states, based on the maps developed in the original project. That project compiled data from the National Weather Service and Federal Aviation Administration from 2000 to 2010. 

Results

A set of state-specific maps tailored to each member state’s interest.

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Establishing Effective Salt and Anti-icing Application Rates

Problem

Transportation agencies have been managing their salt and liquid anti-icing applications based on the results of multiple testing efforts over the years, including:

  • FHWA TE 28 Project, ”Manual of Practice for an Effective Anti-icing Program” (1996)
  • NCHRP Report #526, “Snow and Ice Control: Guidelines for Materials and Methods” (2004)
  • NCHRP Report #577, “Guidelines for the Selection of Snow and Ice Control Materials to Mitigate Environmental Impacts” (2007)

In recent years, more sophisticated methods and procedures have been developed in the field of deicing and anti-icing applications. These include the use of slurry, enhanced brine blends, agricultural by-products as inhibitors or adjuvants, and bridge systems (applied by truck or fixed systems). There also has been growing interest in the use of alternatives to chlorides, such as acetates and glycols.

Additionally, the awareness and concern about chloride loading in the environment has caused many agencies to reevaluate their practices with respect to solid and liquid chloride applications. Agencies are being tasked with maintaining historical and expected service levels while optimizing or minimizing the use of chloride-based products.

Objective

The goal of this project is to update the guidelines developed in FHWA TE-28 and NCHRP Report #526 to reflect present day challenges and the growing complexity of material use in winter operations. The investigator will not conduct new field testing for this project but will instead rely on formal and informal testing and field experience (including NCHRP report #577) conducted since NCHRP Report #526 was published.

Results

The project validated current guidelines and has provided guidance for a future project to focus on current anti-icing field practices.

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