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Models for Estimating the Benefits for Winter Maintenance Operations

Project #: 4W3705
Start Date: 08/09/2011
End Date: 06/08/2012
Status: Completed

As described further in the final report, the research team established and tested several approaches to estimate the benefits of winter highway maintenance. To estimate safety benefits, a Negative Binomial model was established to predict the number of crashes that could be expected to occur under different winter maintenance scenarios. The changes (ideally reductions) in crashes and the financial savings as a result of improved maintenance represent the benefits of winter maintenance on safety.
Travel time savings resulting from differences in travel speeds over road segments under different levels of winter maintenance were established as the method to estimate the second category of quantifiable benefits of winter maintenance. Once again, improved travel speeds on road segments where higher levels of winter maintenance were performed represent financial savings; in this case, through reductions in road user delay and in lost productivity.
Finally, the differences between vehicle fuel usage under storm conditions where maintenance is or is not preformed were established to estimate the fuel savings, the third category of quantifiable benefits of winter maintenance. This method is based on the concept that vehicle mileage per gallon (MPG) will decrease on roads with limited winter maintenance performed, whereas it will increase as the level of winter maintenance is increased. The differences between these levels of fuel usage can be used to estimate the financial savings in fuel usage accrued through winter maintenance.
Using 2001-06 winter season data from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (DOT) as a case study and following the above mentioned methodologies, the researchers estimated the quantified benefits of winter highway maintenance by the Minnesota DOT to be $201,656,553 per winter season. This represents a significant benefit.


Snow and ice control operations allow maintenance agencies to keep the highway system safe, mobile, reliable, and productive. Nonetheless, the cost of such activities is such a major outlay that it demands close scrutiny. To minimize the adverse effects of winter storms on road users, state and local agencies spend significant amount of resources annually performing a variety of maintenance actions. There is a need to better understand and quantitatively assess the benefits of various components or technologies of winter road maintenance relative to costs, both at the national level and at the state level. Additionally, there is a need to effectively communicate these benefits of winter maintenance operations. This research will determine what methodologies presently exist for determining the benefits of winter maintenance operations, identify what data is required to apply those methodologies, demonstrate the identified methodologies through the use of the requisite data, and summarize the findings through a final report document.


The objective of the proposed research is to identify methods for estimating the benefits – both economic and non-economic – of winter maintenance operations. Once identified, these methods and their corresponding supporting data will be employed to estimate the benefits of winter maintenance operations for different scenarios of winter-storm conditions.


  • David Veneziano
    David Veneziano
  • Xianming Shi
    Xianming Shi