Research Projects | Synthesis Projects in Progress

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Resources, Practices and Needs for Weather Forecasting to Facilitate Winter Road Maintenance

Problem
State DOTs have limited budgetary resources for road weather forecasting; however, agencies need consistent, accurate weather information to facilitate the timely and appropriate deployment of winter maintenance operations.

Objective
To determine how agencies currently meet their weather forecasting needs, how effective their forecasting resources are in facilitating road maintenance decisions, and what kinds of information or other resources agencies perceive they need to improve their winter response.

Expected Results
This synthesis will produce a report based on surveys of state central office staff as well as field personnel that will address:

  • The forecasting services, coalitions, meteorologists (on-staff or consultants), and other means that agencies use to obtain weather forecasts and road condition information.
  • The extent to which agencies consider their forecasting sources and methods to be accurate, effective, and valuable, as well as perceived challenges and deficits.
  • The local information gathering efforts (such as mobile weather sensors on maintenance vehicles) that agencies use to supplement broader weather forecasts.
  • The methods agencies use to translate predicted weather severity into specific maintenance actions or responses.
  • How agencies convey timely weather information to operators in the field.
  • Perceived challenges and potential roadblocks to improving the acquisition of accurate and timely weather data and effectively translating it into the appropriate maintenance response.
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Inventory and Use of Salt Spreading Systems

Problem
Each state has various methods and types of delivering salt to the road network. At this time, there is no up-to-date inventory of equipment used by the Clear Roads member states.

Objective
This synthesis will gather information from each state to update their inventory – first completed through 12-05: Comparison of Materials Distribution Systems – of these different systems and to provide the rational as to why they are used.

Expected Results
This project will collect and synthesize information through the following approaches:

  • Determine and present in an accessible format the system or systems each Clear Roads state uses for salt spreading.
  • Determine and describe the reasons the system(s) were chosen for salt spreading, including why one system was chosen over another.
  • Determine and describe further details or features about the chosen systems that distinguish them from other systems.
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Annual Survey of State Winter Maintenance Data

Problem
Winter maintenance is a significant part of many state DOTs’ maintenance budgets. For years, winter maintenance managers have reached out to peers in other states to compare salt use and salt prices, compare winter costs, and identify ways to save money. Clear Roads saw an opportunity to build on past data-gathering efforts and establish a formal mechanism for annually compiling a range of winter maintenance data.

Objective
The goal of this multi-year project is to systematically compile and analyze a range of data from state DOTs related to their winter operations. This will help winter maintenance managers identify and discuss trends in key areas, compare data by year or by state, and facilitate peer-to-peer discussions regarding approaches, tools and costs.

Expected Results
All state DOTs were invited to participate in a survey about resource use, material use and costs for the 2014-2015 winter season. Thirty-five states participated, and the data was compiled into an interactive map that allows users to compare metrics (such as salt price per ton) and identify trends.

The survey has been repeated through the 2017-2018 winter season, and the map has been updated to include those multiple seasons of data. The format provides a foundation for expanded data gathering, analysis and reporting opportunities in the future.

 

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