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South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan Recognized for High-Value Winter Research July 22, 2021

South Dakota DOT’s implementation plan for its Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) and Iowa DOT’s study of corn-based deicers recently captured national attention as two of AASHTO’s Sweet Sixteen high-value research projects for 2021. The award recognizes the nation’s top high-value research projects as chosen by state DOT research directors in each of the four AASHTO regions.

In South Dakota, statewide deployment of the MDSS is already yielding operational and safety benefits, with researchers estimating a six-year benefit-cost ratio of 3.25 (including projected reductions in crashes and fatalities).

In Iowa, innovative research identified three promising blends of corn-based deicers that merit further evaluation as environmentally friendly materials that could reduce the use of salt.

The two projects were honored last week at the annual AASHTO Research Advisory Committee meeting, where Michigan DOT also received a Supplemental Award in the Safety category for its study of green strobe lights for improving conspicuity of winter maintenance vehicles. For more on these award-winning projects:

Congratulations to all of the winners!

Image source: South Dakota DOT

Online Associate’s Degree in Highway Maintenance Management July 7, 2021

For maintenance professionals who are looking to expand their qualifications, this summer may be a good time to explore the online associate’s degree program in Highway Maintenance Management offered by Front Range Community College in Colorado.

Unique in the nation, the online program is designed for current highway maintenance professionals who are interested in advancing to a management role. Students can enroll full-time or part-time, and can cut the time and cost of their degree by receiving credits for skills, training and experience accumulated over the course of their career. FRCC awarded its first degree in the program this spring.

Learn more: Program website and podcast (May 2020 episode of AASHTO’s “SICOP Talks Winter Ops” podcast).

Image courtesy of Front Range Community College

Minnesota Crews Target Changes to Reduce Chlorides in Runoff June 24, 2021

Road deicing is a major cause of chloride impairment in Minnesota’s urban waters. Aiming to reduce these impacts, Minnesota DOT researchers partnered with the City of Edina to test an adaptive management approach to deicing.

Through adaptive management—repeatedly checking the effects of actions and making adjustments—the researchers found that most of the chloride movement in a residential watershed occurred during a small number of winter events, which allowed maintenance staff to make targeted adjustments to their deicing operations. Researchers created a training manual on using adaptive management for deicing and a spreadsheet tool to help agencies improve their deicing operations.

Visit the project page and read the final report: Adaptive Management to Improve Deicing Operations, Minnesota DOT, March 2021.  

Image courtesy of Minnesota DOT

LED Plow Lights Show Benefits in New Hampshire June 7, 2021

LED plow headlights have several potential advantages over traditional halogen bulbs, including longer life, reduced susceptibility to damaging vibrations, and improved visibility and reduced eye fatigue for operators. To compare the two bulb types, New Hampshire DOT tested LED lights on 17 plow trucks and surveyed operators about their experiences.

Operators overwhelmingly preferred the LED headlights, and a cost-benefit analysis showed that the lights’ reduced maintenance requirements led to significant cost savings compared with halogen bulbs.

Read the research report: LED Snowplow Lights: Evaluation Report, New Hampshire DOT, October 2020. 

For more on this topic, see Clear Roads’ research pages on Plow Trucks and Driver Fatigue.

Image source: New Hampshire DOT

New Clear Roads Research: Advanced Technologies for Winter Operations May 28, 2021

Advanced technologies like mobile sensor systems, video analytics and enhanced maintenance decision support systems (MDSS) have the potential to help transportation agencies advance the state of winter maintenance operations.

A recent Clear Roads research project developed a guide to implementing eight emerging and recently developed winter maintenance technologies. By understanding the options and their benefits, agencies can make informed decisions about which technologies to invest in.

Download the final report: Integrating Advanced Technologies into Winter Operations Decisions, December 2020.

Image source: Nebraska DOT

New Podcast Episodes from SICOP Talks Winter Ops May 21, 2021

Check out these two new episodes from AASHTO’s SICOP Talks Winter Ops podcast:

  • Public Affairs, a Key Ingredient for Successful Winter Operations (Episode 47): A conversation with Anne Meyer of Minnesota DOT about the role public affairs professionals play in getting the winter operations message out to the driving public. May 2021. Podcast.
  • Ways to Improve Winter Resilience of Roads (Episode 46): Mark Corbin of the UK’s Transport for West Midlands discusses what he learned during extensive research on winter resilience in several countries. April 2021. Podcast.

Image source: “MnDOT Minute” video, Minnesota DOT

Clear Roads Selects 2021 Research Projects May 11, 2021

The Clear Roads Technical Advisory Committee met April 13-15 to select research projects for 2021 funding. The TAC selected seven new projects:

  • Grip Sensor Technology and Salt Applications
  • Best Practices for Protecting DOT Equipment from the Corrosive Effects of Chemical Deicers (Update to CR 13-04)
  • Efficacy and Environmental Impact of Non-Chloride Deicers
  • Training Module Development for CR 18-03: Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables
  • Evaluation of Electric Vehicle Technologies for Winter Operations
  • Calculating Plow Cycle Times from AVL Data
  • Determining the Migration of Chloride-Based Deicers Through Different Soil Types Adjacent to Chloride-Treated Roadways

More information about these projects is available in the 2021 All Proposed Projects summary. Requests for investigator proposals for the seven new projects will be posted this summer.

The agenda, budget and minutes from the spring meeting are available on the Clear Roads Meetings page.

Image source: Minnesota DOT

New Clear Roads Research: Tools and Strategies for Developing Severity Indexes April 30, 2021

Many agencies use storm severity indexes and winter severity indexes to make comparisons between storms and across multiple winter seasons. But developing an effective severity index can be challenging due to the multitude of variables involved and the availability and quality of data. 

To help agencies find the right fit, a recent Clear Roads research project created a step-by-step guide to implementing a severity index and a flowchart tool that helps match users with existing indexes. Both tools help states assess the most feasible option: using or modifying an existing severity index or developing a new custom index.

Download the final report and appendices: Evaluation of SSI and WSI Variables, December 2020.

Image source: Utah DOT.

Illinois Examines Snow Fence Design, Cost-Effectiveness April 26, 2021

By preventing blowing snow from reaching the roadway, snow fences have proven to be an important tool for many state DOTs. In Illinois, two recent studies are helping IDOT refine its approach to snow fence design and better assess the fences’ cost-effectiveness.

A new benefit-cost analysis tool will help IDOT select locations for three fence types: living snow fences, structural snow fences and standing corn rows. For living snow fences, the research provides guidance on fence setback, orientation, height and porosity, as well as recommended plant species.

Read the research reports:

For more recent research on snow fences, see Reducing Uncertainties in Snow Fence Design: Development of Methods for Estimation of Snow Drifting and the Snow Relocation Coefficient, published by Iowa DOT in September 2020.

Image source: Iowa DOT

New Clear Roads Research: Standard Specifications for Carbide Plow Blades April 15, 2021

A recent Clear Roads research project developed standard procurement specifications for carbide-insert plow blades that any agency can download and use. Designed to help agencies acquire high-quality, long-lasting blades that consistently perform well on the road, the specifications also provide thorough guidance for independent lab testing and inspection of carbide inserts.

Download the specifications and final report: Standard Specifications for Plow Blades with Carbide Inserts, April 2020.

Image source: Massachusetts DOT