DOTs try new tricks for snow removal
Winter is releasing its icy grip on the nation, and departments of transportation (DOTs) in several states are assessing the efficiency of new approaches to clearing snow and ice from roads. Whether it is a new kind of snowplow or more effective deicing agents, the innovations are aimed at improving performance and lowering costs.
Every year, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) tries new equipment in a limited capacity to improve the snow-clearing crews’ performance, says TDOT spokesperson B.J. Doughty. “We want to look at techniques that will do the job faster, be more cost-effective and save on manpower,” she says, adding that the new techniques must be effective, too. “Our experience is, the public doesn’t have a whole lot of patience when it comes to getting the roads cleared.”
Sometimes, DOTs are the source of the innovation. In 2005, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) employee Bob Lannert created the “Tow Plow,” says MoDOT maintenance liaison engineer Tim Chojnacki. The 26-foot-wide Tow Plow is pulled behind a conventional plow truck but can be steered from the cab to swing out to the side to cover another lane, allowing two travel lanes to be cleared and treated in a single pass. “So, one driver, one truck can do the work of two guys,” Chojnacki says.
MoDOT built the prototypes of the Tow Plow, and they are now available commercially from Harrisville, N.Y.-based Viking-Cives, Chojnacki says. About a dozen state DOTs used them this winter. The Washington-based American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has recommended the use of the plow, Chojnacki says.
AASHTO’s Technology Implementation Group helped to deploy the Tow Plow maintenance support system as part of its ongoing supprt for new technology, says AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley. “Innovation is critical, and so is efficiency,” Horsley says.
Technology v. Old Man Winter
Several state DOTs tried new techniques and technology to clear the roads of snow and ice this winter, including:
• The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) installed 17 road condition monitoring web cameras at remote locations throughout the state to help supervisors decide whether an area needs to be plowed.
• The Colorado Department of Transportation deployed 222 snowplows equipped with a Maintenance Decision Support System that analyzes weather and road condition to help operators determine the proper application of anti-icing and de-icing chemicals.
• The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) used WeatherShare, a web-based tool that sends weather data to Caltrans’ transportation management center operators and maintenance staff, so they could better prepare for winter weather.
Source: AASHTO, “States Use Technology and Efficiency to Cut the Cost of Battling Winter,” Dec. 9, 2010