Research Projects | In Progress Projects

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Using GIS to Highlight Highway Segments Sensitive to Deicing Materials

Problem

The effects of deicers on environmental resources are varied and complex. The impacts to sensitive species, protected resources, and human exposure are important factors when considering the appropriate use of deicers on roadways and must be balanced with public safety and expectations. With the difficulty in identifying environmentally sensitive corridors, states are unable to assign the proper equipment and apply chemicals at the appropriate rates to avoid further environmental degradation of both surface and ground water with chloride and sodium.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to improve operational planning to help agencies identify the roadway segments where vulnerable environmental resources may be impacted by snow and ice control activities.

Expected Results

This project will develop a geospatial tool that incorporates data about roadways, topography, hydrology, and ecology to model the impact of de-icing chemical application on the local environment. This information can then be used by maintenance personnel to adjust material application to balance mobility and environmental concerns.

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Expanded Use of AVL/GPS Technology

Problem

Automated Vehicle Location (AVL) and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technologies installed in winter maintenance vehicles have the potential to support summer road maintenance vehicles to improve asset tracking and management practices, as well as other purposes such as process automation and paperwork reduction for field staff in terms of activity reporting. The use of AVL/GPS systems to support both winter and summer maintenance activities can help justify the expenses incurred with respect to hardware / software acquisition and training costs across a wide range of applications.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to help state transportation agencies optimize the value gained from the acquisition of AVL/GPS units by deploying them year-round, rather than just in winter maintenance operations.

Expected Results

This project will help fleet managers demonstrate the additional return on investment that can be realized through the use of these systems for year-round maintenance activities.

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Evaluation of Indoor Automated Stockpile Measurement Systems

Problem

Accurately measuring indoor salt stockpiles has traditionally been a challenge for transportation agencies. Clear Roads is interested in examining a range of existing and emerging approaches to indoor stockpile measurement, including systems using LiDAR, photogrammetry, surveying, acoustic sensing, and drone technology. In particular, Clear Roads is interested in automated or semi-automated systems that have the capability to measure a stockpile, and transmit the data to a central location.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to conduct a data-driven evaluation of currently available automated or semi-automated indoor salt stockpile measuring systems in order to improve agencies’ day-to-day management of their salt stockpile inventories.

Expected Results

By automating this process, states could improve their inventory management and minimize costly rush orders of salt.

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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 will make further improvements to the tool.

Objective

The objective of this project is 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.

Expected Results

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

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Salt Shed Design Template

Problem

Each state has its own salt shed design; in some states four to five varieties are used. In many cases these sheds are designed for each location given a specific budget. Many facilities are not designed to the level they need to be in terms of quality as they do not effectively contain the salt they are designed to store.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to develop a set of three scalable salt shed designs that can be used as a template to meet the needs of a variety of sites throughout Clear Roads member states. The designs will take into account existing building codes and state and federal regulations associated with environmental and related concerns.

Expected Results

The template should provide a set of three scalable designs appropriate for a range of storage capacities. With scalable structural components, the designs would provide a basic template for member states to use as a starting point for further design modifications and for bidding for shelter construction.

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Understanding the NaCl Phase Diagram

Problem

The sodium chloride phase diagram is a visual representation of the behavior of NaCl solutions across a range of temperatures and salt concentrations. Winter maintenance practitioners are primarily concerned with the portion of the phase diagram where ice is formed. The NaCl phase diagram shows a familiar process: salt depressing the freezing point of ice. However, there has been some confusion regarding the portion of the diagram to the right of the eutectic point. In brine solutions with salt concentrations beyond the eutectic point, salt precipitate and ice begin to form in the solution as the temperature drops. Practitioners are unclear as to whether spraying a supersaturated brine can cause roads to become more slippery under certain circumstances.

Objectives

The goals of this project are to provide winter maintenance practitioners with a better understanding of the sodium chloride phase diagram and of how brines with salt concentrations higher or lower than the eutectic point of 23.3% will behave on the roadway.

Expected Results

Project deliverables include the development of training materials (a fact sheet and a video) to help provide winter maintenance practitioners with a better understanding of the phase diagram for sodium chloride and how to apply it to yield the best results in roadway deicing. This knowledge will help winter maintenance agencies apply salt and salt brines effectively for the best performance on winter roadways.

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Entry-Level Driver Training (CDL) for Maintenance Equipment Operators

Problem

Under a new federal rule, all training providers (individual locations) must be listed on Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Training Provider Registry (TPR). To be listed on the TPR, the lead trainer at each location must certify that the location meets these requirements:

  1. Follows a training curriculum that meets specific criteria for theory and behind-the-wheel training.
  2. Utilizes facilities, vehicles, and instructors meeting federal requirements.
  3. Meets federal record-keeping requirements.
  4. Complies with any applicable state laws and regulations.

Objectives

The goals of this project are (1) to provide training materials and resources that will allow Clear Roads member agencies to provide entry-level CDL training that complies with 81 FR 88732, 84 FR 8029, and 49 CFR 380; and (2) to develop and document a process for member agencies to follow in order for each of their training locations to be added to the FMCSA TPR by February 7, 2022, and to comply with all federal requirements to remain on the TPR.

Expected Results

This project will develop a training curriculum that meets FMCSA requirements, and will develop all training materials and resources necessary for states to execute the training program. The training materials may consist of PowerPoint presentations, course guides, exams, videos, eLearning and other training support materials to be used as part of instructor-led classroom (theory) and behind-the-wheel (BTW) training programs at state DOTs.

This project will also develop train-the-trainer materials to assist agencies in implementing the training program. In addition, this project will develop and document a process for DOTs to follow to ensure that all of their training locations are added to the TPR before February 7, 2022.

The Interim Webinar took place on April 2, 2021.

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Expanding Application Rate Guidance for Salt Brine Blends for Direct Liquid Application and Anti-icing

Problem

Direct liquid application (DLA) has been shown to be effective at clearing snow and ice while using less salt than granular salt application. However, a lack of detailed guidance and application rates for multiple brine blends across a variety of weather and pavement conditions may prevent some agencies from fully utilizing DLA as a winter maintenance strategy.

Objectives

To expand on the currently available guidelines for the use of brines and brine blends for DLA and anti-icing. By providing a more complete set of application rates for various pavement temperature ranges and road surface conditions, this project will help facilitate expanded use of DLA and anti-icing at agencies across the country.

Expected Results

A more robust set of data is necessary to provide agencies with the information needed to apply various liquid deicers in a broader range of field conditions, particularly at lower temperatures. This project will gather that data through a survey of practice and subsequent field testing. The test results, along with the survey results and information gathered in a literature review, will be used to create a set of application rate tables for brine and brine blend usage for DLA and anti-icing.

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Synthesis of Technical Requirements and Considerations for an Automated Snowplow Route Optimization RFP Template

Problem

Some state DOTs use snowplow route optimization programs to optimize their fleet sizing, determine new facility locations, and develop snow and ice routes. Optimization programs can result in cost savings through more efficient and effective use of staff, equipment and materials, and optimal placement of winter maintenance facilities. However, developing the Request for Proposals, specifically the technical requirements portion of the RFP, can be difficult and time consuming.

Objectives

To expedite the process for states to procure an automated snowplow route optimization program vendor by providing a list of technical requirements and considerations that states can use to build their Request for Proposals.

Expected Results

Through the survey and follow-up interviews with agencies and vendors, this project will capture the technical requirements and considerations involved in selecting a program; provide guidance on these decisions; and provide a list of technical requirements and considerations that states can use to build their own RFPs.

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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. Both tow plows and plows with wings represent a greater up-front investment but are designed to allow a plow operator to clear more snow in a single pass than a standard front plow, potentially providing efficiencies in terms of plow cycle time, labor and equipment allocation, operating costs, increased level of service, and more.

Objectives

To (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.

Expected Results

Through a practitioner survey, testing / simulation, and analysis, this project will quantify these efficiencies, provide a thorough examination of the extent to which these efficiencies are realized under real-world conditions, and identify the roadways best suited to deployment of the different plow types. Finally, this project will produce a decision support tool and best practices guide to help agencies more accurately assess the efficiencies, costs of ownership, and return on investment for this equipment and determine the best locations to deploy it.

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