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Transcend Facility Update: Snow guns

Does your project need an open road? Located in Central Montana at the former Lewistown airport, Transcend’s research facility offers four miles of real-world paved test surface, a highly innovative, multidisciplinary research staff, and a comprehensive communications, power, and data networking infrastructure allowing innovations to make the jump from the laboratory to the real world. In short, it is the only laboratory of its kind: diverse, isolated, and ready to test, develop, and research virtually any innovation that relies on the open road. And while the real world features extreme weather and conditions, the facility takes a step forward and features a few perks the real world doesn’t like instant wet weather, a highly innovative, multidisciplinary research team and the diagnostics to ensure every test is accurate and valuable.

To date, Transcend, a Western Transportation Institute (WTI) facility, has tested de-icing equipment and techniques, evaluated animal detection systems, and confirmed the durability of fly-ash concrete. With plenty of room, long stretches of road, and zero interruptions, the lab stands ready for whatever you can dream up.

The facility has the capability to create a wintery road scenario with no natural precipitation. Transcend snow-making equipment generates 8,000 cubic feet of snow per hour using 24,000 gallons of water. As long as the temperature is below 25 degrees and the humidity is low, three, multi-positional, mobile snow guns create an impressive pile of snow in short order. These machines create a unique winter testing environment, allowing researchers to control study variables, including snow, rain, and ice. Lewistown, Montana provides a very diverse climate – hot, cold and wet seasons – to complement the snowmaking ability. When the temperature is warmer, the snow guns can create a torrential downpour and when the temperature is just right, the guns can be used to create an icy nightmarish roadway to test deicers and other winter maintenance techniques.

Using this equipment, WTI crews recently completed a Field Operational Test for the Caltrans Establishing Best Practices of Snow and Ice Removal research project. Chemicals were applied late in the afternoon with cold air and pavement temperatures. Snow was made and compacted overnight using the Transcend snowmaking system and a smooth drum compactor. Test sections were evaluated early the next morning by plowing, photographing and measuring friction on the test sections.