Winter weather events have a regional and often national impact. “Storms never stop at the state line,” said Tom Peters, research and training engineer, MnDOT Maintenance Operations. “That’s why it’s so important for us to know about winter maintenance efforts around the country, and particularly at neighboring states with similar climates.”
MnDOT leads the Clear Roads Transportation Pooled Fund Project (clearroads.org), a national winter maintenance research consortium. In 2015, Clear Roads launched a national survey to collect and report the annual winter maintenance operations of state DOTs. The effort included nearly 50 data points related to equipment, materials and costs.
The results, which are available at clearroads.org/winter-maintenance-survey as a Microsoft Excel-based spreadsheet, are available at no cost for users to examine, analyze and parse as needed. Beyond the raw data, the spreadsheet includes calculated statistics and an interactive map for plotting key metrics.
The results quantified much of what was known only anecdotally and provided useful, actionable data. “Data trends by geographic region and over time let us make more informed operations decisions,” Peters said. “We can also draw on this information to communicate with management, elected officials and the public about how MnDOT’s winter operations fit in a national context.”
As the lead state, MnDOT commits significant administrative time and attention across the agency to Clear Roads. “It’s rewarding and satisfying to see such a useful product as one of the payoffs for all this effort,” Peters said.
Additional data collection for the 2015-2016 winter season is already complete. Look for an update to the online database later this year.
Research in Progress
Clear Roads has nearly a dozen research projects in progress, including:
- An investigation of equipment factors that cause fatigue in plow operators
- A survey of state of practice for contracting for snow and ice control by state DOTs
- A synthesis of best practices for plow route optimization and facility placement
- Development of a decision support tool to quantify the impact of capital improvements on the cost of winter maintenance operations
At its September meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, the Clear Roads Technical Advisory Committee funded five new projects:
- Utilization of GPS/AVL Technology: Case Studies
- Standards and Guidance for Using Sensor Technology to Assess Winter Road Conditions
- Emergency Operations Methodology for Extreme Winter Storm Events
- Weather Event Reconstruction and Analysis Tool
- Training Video for the Implementation of Liquid-Only Plow Routes
What is Clear Roads?
Clear Roads is a 33-member pooled fund program dedicated to winter road maintenance research. Led by MnDOT, Clear Roads projects evaluate winter maintenance materials, equipment and methods; develop specifications and recommendations; study and promote innovative techniques and technologies; and develop field guides and training curricula. Learn more at clearroads.org.