Research Projects | In Progress Projects

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Efficacy, Cost, and Impacts of Non-Chloride Deicers

Problem

Transportation agencies routinely use chlorides in their winter maintenance practices, which can contaminate road-side wells and waterways. Because of these potential adverse effects, agencies would like to better understand the range of non-chloride-based deicers that could serve as viable alternatives.

Objectives

To collect and synthesize available information about non-chloride deicing products from available research and present the information as a comparison to chloride-based deicers in educational primers and product information sheets. Using the Mechanical Rocker Test developed by University of Nebraska / Nebraska DOT, investigators will provide an examination and documentation of the performance of selected non-chloride deicers from the Clear Roads Qualified Products List (QPL) that have not yet been effectively tested.

Expected Results

From this environmental data, investigators will recommend environmental testing standards to be added to Test Methods 15 through 20 of Clear Roads Guidance Document for Material Qualified Products List, Specifications, Test Methods, and Product Purchasing, which address Toxicity, Ammonia – Nitrogen, Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen, Biological Oxygen Demand and Chemical Oxygen Demand tests.

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Training Module Development for Evaluation of Storm Severity Index and Winter Severity Index Variables

Problem

The Clear Roads project Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables developed a step-by-step guide and flowchart tool to help agencies identify or develop severity index methods that fit their needs and their available data sources. The final report represents the most comprehensive work on this complicated topic. However, the complexity and size of the report present a hurdle to managers’ and practitioners’ ability to understand these findings and apply them to their operations. This important topic is an increasing concern among snow and ice managers as they attempt to develop accurate level of service measurements.

Objectives

The goal of this dissemination and implementation project is to develop Clear Roads training modules for three general audiences, including division directors, snow and ice managers, and supervisors.

Expected Results

The outcome of this project will be detailed training modules that synthesize the material from CR 18-03 into 30- to 60-minute segments tailored to the three target audiences. These modules would include audiovisual materials, discussion topics, and interactive exercises (knowledge checks) required to provide complete training on this topic.

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Grip Sensor Technology and Salt Applications

Problem

Many agencies have snowplows capable of gathering pavement friction and other data as they travel along their routes, but most do not use that information to make operational adjustments in real time.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to gain a more complete understanding of how, and for what purpose, various transportation agencies put friction data to use within their own programs.

Expected Results

This project will provide winter maintenance teams with an algorithm or decision matrix that incorporates pavement friction and other data to advise the appropriate type and application rate of deicing materials in real time.

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Evaluation of Electric Vehicle Technologies and Alternative Fuels for Winter Operations

Problem

As renewable energy becomes more cost-effective and commonplace, agencies may choose to begin replacing their winter maintenance vehicles and equipment with a fleet that has a smaller carbon footprint. There are, however, a number of issues that transportation agencies with winter maintenance programs should consider before converting an existing diesel-fueled winter maintenance fleet to one powered by electric vehicle technologies (EVT) or alternative fuels.

Objectives

The goal of this project is to provide agencies that rely on diesel-powered winter maintenance fleets with a thorough understanding of the available technologies and related operational considerations that would be impacted by a transition to a fleet powered by EVT or alternative fuels.

Expected Results

Investigators will research EVT as well as identify what alternative fuels are viable for use in winter maintenance vehicles and heavy equipment, and a comparison of the benefits and challenges each energy source offers. This information will form the basis for a synthesis report that agencies can reference in their decision-making process.

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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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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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Standard Test Procedures for Ice Melting Capacity of Deicers

Problem

Preliminary testing has indicated that the ice melting capacity of various deicing products may vary significantly, even within specific deicing product categories. In addition, states’ processes for procuring deicing materials limit competition, are subjective on performance, and can become increasingly burdensome for lab, procurement, and management staff.

Objectives

To provide transportation agencies with an objective, repeatable test procedure for measuring the ice melting capacity of deicers.

Expected Results

Clear Roads wishes to standardize product testing to help states meet level of service requirements with the lowest possible procurement costs. In this project, the Mechanical Rocker Test Procedure, developed by Nebraska DOT, will be evaluated for use as a national standard.

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