After the TRB Annual Meeting in Washington D.C., Laura Fay (left), Karalyn Clouser (right), and Natalie Villwock-Witte traveled on to Maryland to meet with the Maryland Department of Transportation (DOT) about the Severe Weather Index (SWI) project. An SWI is a management tool that can assess the performance and related costs associated with winter maintenance operations. P.I. Laura Fay is leading the development of an SWI specifically for Maryland DOT, which assesses operations and costs by region, Maintenance Shop, and winter storm event.
As winter gets underway, state Departments of Transportation are planning their snow and ice maintenance programs. In the process, they are considering findings and recommendations from WTI research projects.
The Kansas Department of Transportation is incorporating alternative products into its deicer mix. The Hutchinson News published a recent article entitled “KDOT using beet juice to clear ice on roadways.” The article states that engineers reviewed WTI’s study “Understanding the Effectiveness of Non-Chloride Liquid Agricultural By-Products and Solid Complex Chloride/Mineral Products” to identify agro-based products for winter maintenance.
The Lake Superior News reports that Cook County, Minnesota is also reviewing its current use of salt-sand mix to treat icy roads. In “Navigating the Slippery Slope of Winter Maintenance,” a Cook County Highway Engineer notes that the agency consulted WTI’s 2017 report, Field Usage of Alternative Deicers for Snow and Ice Control, to learn more about potential alternatives to road salt.
Both of the reviewed studies were written and co-written by WTI’s Cold Climate Operations and Systems Program Manager, Laura Fay.
Kalispell, Montana proved to be an ideal venue for the 12th TRB International Conference on Low Volume Roads, held in late September. Sponsored by the Transportation Research Board and co-sponsored by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the conference welcomed 250 participants from 22 countries who experienced low volume roads in northwest Montana firsthand. The conference provided 27 sessions covering 104 presentations, six hands-on workshops, and a field tour highlighting demonstrations of a variety of low volume road management tools.
The Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University served as the local host and worked on site details for two years in preparation for this enormous event. WTI researchers Laura Fay, Natalie Villwock-Witte, Jaime Sullivan, Ahmed Al-Kaisy, and Matt Ulberg, Director of Montana Local Technical Assistance Program presented at the conference.
Conference organizer, David Jones, University of California, Davis, was excited that the conference took place in a rural setting where the knowledge shared is most needed. “Since 1975, this conference has been held every four years and provides a forum for the exchange of information and innovative ideas on all aspects of low volume roads,” said Jones. “This year’s conference continues that long tradition. Kalispell, with Glacier National Park nearby, is a beautiful area of the country and our local hosts excelled in providing a great venue with plenty of opportunities for activities.”
Colin Brooks and Rick Dobson of Michigan Technological University demonstrate an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) during the LVR field tour.
In ongoing efforts to expand international research partnerships, WTI is developing a memorandum of agreement with Francesca Russo, PhD of the Road Infrastructures and Transportation Systems Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering (DICEA) at the University Federico II of Naples Scuola Politecnica e delle Scienze in Naples, Italy. Led by WTI Program Manager Laura Fay, this collaboration was born from service on the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Low Volume Roads Committee, and will focus on cooperative studies and research exchanges.
WTI Research Engineer Natalie Villwock-Witte recently had the opportunity to meet some of the staff on the campus. Everyone at WTI is looking forward to working with these new partners, and seeing what innovations emerge from sharing ideas between the two countries.
On May 8, Laura Fay, WTI Program Manager for Cold Climate Operations and Systems, led a training session at the American Public Works Association (APWA) North American Snow Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. As part of the 401 Level Training series, Laura presented on Advanced Liquids use in winter maintenance operations. The North American Snow Conference is a leading national winter maintenance event highlighting the latest innovations, best practices, and successful strategies in winter operations and snowfighting techniques. With an emphasis on education for winter maintenance practitioners, the event packed 50 training events into three days!
A challenge that many state DOTs face is the accurate assessment of winter maintenance operations. One tool that has been successfully used by DOTs is the severe weather index (SWI), which can assess the performance and related costs associated with winter maintenance operations. It considers the relative severity of each weather event, and relative severity of weather for that season.
Principal Investigator Laura Fay is leading a new project to develop a severe weather index for Maryland DOT by region, Maintenance Shop, and winter storm event. Maryland DOT can use the SWI to determine if costs incurred during each event and winter are reasonable, as well as if the resources deployed and contracted amounts are also within reason.
To follow this project, visit its webpage on the WTI website.
Last week, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies invited WTI Research Scientist Laura Fay to present an overview of her research on winter maintenance deicers at the Institute’s main facility in Millbrook, New York. Laura’s presentation, entitled “Best Management Practices, a National Perspective,” provided an overview of typical deicers, including how and when they are used. In addition, she highlighted easy to implement best management practices that help transportation agencies reduce the amount of deicers they apply to the road, which in turn reduces the impact of deicing practices to the surrounding environment. The Cary Institute is a nationally and internationally recognized independent research organization, focused on understanding how ecosystems work and identifying factors that drive ecological change.
TR News magazine, published by the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, recently dedicated an entire issue to successful efforts to move research into practice. In the article “Going, Seeing, Showing, and Doing: Low-Tech Technology Transfer Works,” the authors highlighted WTI’s efforts to spearhead the National Winter Maintenance Peer Exchange from 2007 – 2015. Specifically, they note that attendees have “overwhelmingly cited the sharing of best practices and innovations as the most helpful part of the event.”
For more information about WTI’s Winter Maintenance projects and activities, click here.
View an an archive of the winter peer exchange events.