Research Projects | Completed Projects

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Cost-Benefit Analysis Toolkit

Cost-Benefit1Problem

For the last 15 years, maintenance budgets for transportation agencies have largely gone down or remained flat. As a result, every new purchase has to have a cost-benefit analysis to justify its dollar value. The current situation requires an effective method for determining the cost-benefit of incorporating new products and methods into agency operations.

Objective

The goal was to develop a practical tool that could be used by Clear Roads states and other agencies to calculate the cost-benefit and justify expenditures for specific new practices, equipment and operations used in winter maintenance activities.

Results

The project team developed a user-friendly, web-based tool that provides support for cost-benefit analysis (based on available research) for ten practices, equipment and operations. A training guide was also included.

See the article in the “Highway Contractor” section of the June 2011 issue of Better Roads magazine.

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Identifying the Parameters for Effective Implementation of Liquid-Only Plow Routes

Liquid Snow Removal

Problem

More information is needed on the use of liquid-only routes for snow and ice removal. The focus of this study was to identify parameters for the safe and effective use of liquid-only routes during winter storm events and to assess the viability of and make recommendations for field-testing.

Objective

The objectives of this project were to conduct a literature search and survey to identify public agencies (state DOTs, provinces, cities, countries, etc.) with experience using liquid routes. Researchers were also expected to follow up with the most experienced agencies to collect additional observations based on the 2009-10 winter season. Using these resources, the researcher was able to identify what circumstances and methods had proven most effective for using liquid routes during winter storm events.

Results

This project identified the optimal circumstances and most effective methods for using liquid routes during winter storm events. The researcher produced a quick-reference guide for practitioners that outlined the safe and effective parameters at a glance. The final report also included recommendations on how to field test and verify the recommended practices.

See the feature article in the September 2011 issue of Roads & Bridges magazine.

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Development of Standardized Test Procedures for Carbide Insert Snowplow Blade Wear

Carbide Blade

Problem

State DOTs use several thousand carbide blades in a single winter season. Carbide inserts used in snowplow blades are often replaced too early or too late during snow removal operations, resulting in wasted materials and money and possible plow damage.

Objective

The goal of this project was to develop testing procedures for carbide inserts that would give agencies a better ability to predict performance of the carbide inserts used in snowplow blades for snow removal operations.

Results

The project identified lab tests that demonstrated that inserts showing flaws in the lab also had the poorest performance in the field. The final report included recommendations for developing a national standard for everyone to use, so that manufacturers can focus on making one type of carbide blade and shape. It also included a purchasing approval framework and specification, which has the potential to save DOTs money.

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Correlating Lab Testing and Field Performance for Deicing and Anti-icing Chemicals (Phase I)

CorrelationProblem

A new laboratory test, tool or method is needed to evaluate the performance and friction coefficient of de-icing chemicals in conditions that replicate the actual roadway. Laboratory tests have been developed to measure eutectic curves, environmental effects, corrosion and other chemical characteristics of deicing chemicals and blends, but none have been developed to effectively and consistently replicate the real world. Decision makers need better information about the influence of traffic (i.e., volume, speed and type), humidity, deicing chemical particle size, application rates and methods, wind speed, precipitation, long and short range radiation, effective time (chemical activation to end of useful life), pavement temperatures and other applicable variables on the performance and friction coefficient of de-icing chemicals.

Objective

A multi-phase research project is needed to develop a test method that identifies the effects of many factors and variables on performance and friction and can also be correlated to field performance. Phase I started with a comprehensive literature search to develop recommendations on how to proceed with laboratory testing methods and design.

Results

The findings included relevant parameters for both lab and field testing as well as recommendations for future phases on testing methodologies, statistical analysis using available technology, and managing precipitation (snow/ice pack) and uniform tracking.

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Development of Interface Specifications for Mobile Data Platforms on DOT Vehicles

Interface Specifications

Problem

Sensors and other devices used on DOT vehicles are often provided by different vendors, each with their own proprietary communication protocols and data formats. It is costly and time intensive to integrate the different systems into one data stream. The adoption of standards or specifications would simplify the process of adding new components and reduce the overall costs to develop and maintain a mobile data platform.

Objective

The goal was to develop specifications that would support a “plug and play” approach to integrating sensors and other devices.

Results

The report provides communication and data format specifications that support a standardized approach to integrating sensors and other devices with mobile data platforms used by state DOTs as well as recommendations on how to implement the specifications.

Clear Roads has used the specification developed through this project as the starting point for our Plug and Play Initiative, a collaborative effort to develop the Clear Roads Universal In-Cab Performance Specifications and Communications Protocol.

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Development of Standardized Test Procedures for Evaluating Deicing Chemicals

Standardized TestsProblem

Every year manufacturers introduce new deicing chemicals, additives or mixtures for use in snow and ice operations. Users do not currently have a comprehensive methodology for evaluating the performance of these new products prior to purchasing.

Objective

The goal of this project was to establish laboratory tests that could be applied to all deicing chemicals, additives and mixtures to measure performance. Manufacturers could then be required to run these tests on their products at independent laboratories before marketing or selling them to Clear Roads states.

Results

The report identified standardized tests and procedures that may help states identify the relative performance of deicers.

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Developing and Evaluating Safe Winter Driving Messages

Winter Driver Safety

Problem

Many states have created their own winter driving safety campaigns at substantial cost to each state. With limited agency budgets, the members of the Clear Roads pooled fund wanted to ensure that future investments target the most critical audience in the most effective format possible.

Objective

The objectives of this project were to produce winter driving safety messages aimed at high-risk drivers. Researchers were asked to identify the target audience and develop safe driving messages and formats for distribution nationwide with the goal of reducing crashes, injuries and deaths related to winter driving.

Results

The project produced public service announcements and Internet banner ads aimed at high-risk demographics to change their winter driving behavior.

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Determining Effectiveness of Deicing Materials and Procedures

Effectiveness of Deicers

Problem

State DOTs spend millions of dollars per year on snow removal and deicing activities. In order to meet level of service requirements under increasing budget and environmental constraints, DOTs need to be able to determine the “best value” for both chemical and mechanical snow/ice removal practices.

Objective

Develop testing guidelines for evaluating the performance of various winter road chemicals. Include the minimum equipment and data required to effectively evaluate winter chemical performance and describe the ideal test location.

Results

A guidance document for conducting field testing to determine the effectiveness of deicers in a variety of locations under a variety of winter conditions.

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Calibration Accuracy of Manual and Ground-Speed-Control Spreaders

Calibration Accuracy

Problem

Although ground speed controllers have been used on snowplow and salt spreader trucks in place of manual spreaders since the mid-1990s, the accuracy of the equipment has never been determined.

Objective

Document controller settings, actual salt usage and prewetting rate information from trucks with various types of controller units during winter storm events.

Results

Guidelines to help snowplow operators establish and maintain accurate calibration of ground speed controllers, resulting in reduced salt usage and improved efficiency.

See the article in the July 2009 issue of Better Roads magazine and the article in the September 2009 issue of Roads & Bridges magazine.

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Synthesis of Best Practices for Eliminating Fogging and Icing on Winter Maintenance Vehicles

Fogging

Problem

Windows and mirrors on snowplow trucks often become covered with snow, ice, frost and other precipitation during winter storms, raising visibility and safety concerns for the operators.

Objective

Conduct a comprehensive survey to identify effective methods for combating or preventing moisture on windows and mirrors while maintaining the comfort and safety of the plow operator.

Results

The final report compiles a range of solutions, both long-term and short-term, for keeping snow plow glass and mirror surfaces clean of winter precipitation inside and out.

See the article in the October 2006 issue of Better Roads magazine.

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