Research Projects | In Progress Projects

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Salt Shed Design Template

Problem

Each state has their own salt shed design. In some states there are four to five varieties. 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 do well to 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.

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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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Recruitment and Retention of Highway Maintenance Workers

Problem

The general lack of drivers from the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and the retiring of the Baby Boomers, coupled with the long hours and frigid work conditions, contributes to state DOTs’ struggles to find and retain highway maintenance workers.

Objectives

To provide state DOTs with information that can be used to more effectively recruit and retain highway maintenance workers. A related objective is to develop objective data about state DOTs’ recruitment / retention challenges that can be presented to state legislative committees or upper management in order to influence agency policy.

Expected Results

This project will develop five to seven case studies examining agencies’ efforts and experiences in recruitment and retention of highway maintenance workers. Based on these case studies, recommendations will be provided that will include a list of recommended exit interview questions that agencies can use with departing employees to better understand what aspects of the positions could be modified to attract and retain workers.

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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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Review and Summary of Pre-wet Methods and Procedures

Problem

While previous research has been done in this area, Clear Roads believes that gaps in knowledge exist and that further investigation is needed to identify the most effective materials, equipment, and methods for pre-wetting.

Objectives

The compilation of relevant recent knowledge, data, and guidance, as well as detailed descriptions of current national and international agency practices regarding on-board pre-wetting of solids, specifically focusing on the areas of materials, equipment and methods (including application rates and vehicle speed).

Expected Results

To provide guidance to transportation agencies seeking to effectively employ the practice of pre-wetting of solid materials in their winter highway maintenance protocols. A Phase II project is planned, which will combine the results of both phases to produce a comprehensive guide to pre-wetting. That ultimate deliverable must inform the approach, development, and execution of this Phase I project—the compilation and review of knowledge and practices.

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Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables

Problem

Storm Severity Index and Winter Severity Index are important measures in comparing individual storms and annual winter weather severity. Currently, there is no standard set of variables used in connection with these indexes. While an agency can review and compare its variables with similar variables used by other agencies, the lack of a uniform set of variables measured in a consistent manner precludes agencies from effectively comparing the winter-related inputs such as the labor and materials used to perform winter maintenance.

Objectives

  • Identify state, national and international agencies using SSI and/or WSI.
  • Determine the variables and measurement methods used to create the indexes. (A variable of particular interest to Clear Roads states is freezing rain.)
  • Gather statistical data resulting from analysis of each variable for consistency and variability.
  • Recommend the most reliable variables, with the highest correlation to storm severity, for developing SSI/WSI.
  • Create a flexible spreadsheet tool that allows agencies to develop a state-specific SSI/WSI.

Expected Results

The deliverables from this project will allow winter maintenance managers, researchers and transportation agencies to more effectively compare winter operations among localized areas, districts and states. Agencies will also be able to compare individual storms and across years to evaluate innovations and new winter maintenance methods.

The Final Webinar took place on December 22, 2020.

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