Winter’s not over yet (especially here in Montana), so winter maintenance is still a hot topic in the national media. In February, Next City published an in-depth feature entitled “Cities Are Cutting the Salt from their Winter Road Diets,” which focused on alternatives to salt and brine for roadway snow and ice control. WTI’s Cold Climate Operations Program Manager Laura Fay is quoted in the article, discussing environmental and sustainability issues related to deicers, as well as the value of best management practices, such as equipment calibration. The National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board then shared the story via Twitter, highlighting Laura’s quote “If you’re applying the right material at the right time, you’ll save on product, money, and time.”
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.
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.
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.