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Establishing Best Practices: Snow/Ice Removal in California

Started: January, 2008 Ended: June, 2010 Project ID #4W2019 Status: Completed


Develop guidelines for optimal snow and ice removal operations designed specifically for California highway environments.


The California Department of Transportation is faced with the difficult task of maintaining and operating roadways during the winter while also maintaining safety, economic development, emergency management and environmental stewardship. Recent legislation has mandated that salt usage be reduced, which has led Caltrans to alter their means of maintaining roads in winter. Even though Caltrans has responded to this legislation by reducing overall salt usage, not enough research has been done to establish best practices for winter maintenance using alternative chemicals. Alternative anti-icing and deicing chemicals are being tested and tried to verify their many attributes. While many departments use deicing techniques as a reactive method, anti-icing is a technique that continues to gain favor worldwide for better control of roadway snow and ice. However, there are three major limitations that have slowed full implementation of anti-icing methodologies: 1) lack of established dispersal rates, 2) lack of laboratory studies to verify field studies, and 3) lack of understanding of the science associated with anti-icing principles. These knowledge gaps may lead to inappropriate use, which can have significant economic, environmental or safety repercussions. To ensure an appropriate balance between cost, effectiveness, safety, infrastructure service life and environmental stewardship, transportation agencies must know how to apply the right amount/type of chemicals in the right place at the right time. The objective of this research is to develop guidelines for optimal snow and ice removal operations designed specifically for California highway environments. The research will: 1) synthesize information regarding winter maintenance best practices, and 2) establish a set of preliminary guidelines for safe, effective, environmentally conscious, and fiscally responsible winter maintenance practices in California. Preliminary guidelines will be established through a carefully crafted laboratory investigation and a field operational test (FOT) to predict and/or verify the viability of selected chemicals under various road and weather scenarios. The research results from this project will allow the department to make better decisions with respect to reducing the amount of chemicals and cost for snow and ice removal operations while providing safe, reliable winter highways for the traveling public. The implementation of better snow and ice removal practices will have immediate positive impact on the California highway system, including cost savings, enhanced traveler safety, reduced traveler delays, and minimized environmental impacts.


Files & Documents

Sponsors & Partners

  • California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) Sponsor
  • Research and Innovation Technology Administration (RITA) Partner

Related Information

Part of: Infrastructure Maintenance and Materials, Winter Maintenance and Effects, Cold Climate Operations & Systems, Infrastructure Longevity and Sustainability, UTC, WTI-1, Transcend

Project Tagged In: Anti-icing, Field operational test, Laboratory investigation, winter maintenance

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