States approach winter roads with variety of techniques
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Major snowfall and freezing temperatures continue to impact a large portion of North America this week, although winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21. The National Weather Service says a La Nina is at least partially responsible and the agency predicts this weather pattern could cause a second consecutive year of record snowfalls in many parts of the United States.
The challenge for most state transportation departments will be to maintain a high level of service this winter season without the benefit of additional financial resources. Many states have already turned to new technology and environmentally sensitive solutions to cut costs and improve efficiency.
• The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has deployed 222 snowplows statewide, equipped with a Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), which combines advanced weather and road condition prediction and rules of practice to help operators determine the proper application of anti-icing and de-icing chemicals on a route-by-route basis. CDOT is also using automatic de-icing systems to spray liquid de-icers once on-site sensors detect a decrease in surface temperatures and an increase in moisture.
• This winter, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) will use a substance called “Magic Salt” to help melt ice and snow during lower temperatures. Magic Salt, made from potato juice, is a biodegradable, non-corrosive and environmentally friendly substance. TDOT and several other states including Maryland DOT will also use beet juice to improve snow and ice removal from roadways when temperatures fall. TDOT is also adding 10 new 14-foot snow plows across the state. The plows are more than four feet wider than traditional plows and have the ability to clear an entire travel lane in one pass. Some TDOT trucks will be fitted with new, underbody plows which are being tested for the capability to remove hard-packed ice from the roadway.
“Innovation is critical,” said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “And so is efficiency. Part of AASHTO’s mission is to help install new technologies as they become market ready. We accomplish this objective through an AASHTO committee called Technology Implementation Group (TIG) which helped to deploy MDSS and the Tow Plow. States suffered a major financial blow last year due to record-setting storms and blizzards, and all indications are state budgets will remain tight throughout 2011.”
State DOTs are also encouraging motorists to do their part to keep roads clear and drivers safe. When major storms are forecast, drivers should visit state DOT websites for the latest traveler information. Most states also offer 511 information lines and Twitter alerts. Citizens also should plan to stay off the roadways during major snow events to give more room to the plow trucks. They should also keep a set of chains in their vehicle and install them when necessary for adequate tire traction. Motorists should also carry an emergency kit with items like water, food, blankets, a battery operated radio, a shovel, ice scraper and a flashlight.
A complete list of state web sites is available at www.transportation.org .
Use the following contacts to find out more information about specific state DOT Winter operations: