An Evaluation of Weather Information Technologies for Snow and Ice Control Operations

Since 1988, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been testing the use of weather information technologies in support of snow and ice control operations. In 1989, WSDOT contracted with a private meteorological service, had road thermography conducted on state roads in Area 5 of District 1, and installed sensor systems in four Area 5 locations. The thermography was also used as a basis for obtaining forecast temperature profiles for the State roads on which the thermographic analysis had been conducted. The pavement temperature forecasts, meteorological forecasts, and sensor data were all to be integrated into the snow and ice control decision process. The WSDOT contracted with The Matrix Management Group to evaluate the maintenance response to the new information, actual or potential cost savings with the information, and possible or real improvements in safety and service to the traveling public, and to suggest additional locations within the State which could benefit from improved weather information and/or operational changes in snow and ice control procedures which might result from the new information. This report presents a review of weather information system elements, provides an overview of the technologies in use by WSDOT, describes uses of weather information by managers, and notes some problems. A detailed benefit-cost analysis was not conducted; a parallel effort was done for a nation-wide project, and complete structured cost data were not generated by the WSDOT for this analysis. However, national results are discussed in terms of the scale of WSDOT operations. The participation and results associated with the pilot program were found to be mixed. A need for training of managers and operational decision makers in the full concept and expectations of a road weather information system, and in the particular technologies described herein, is perhaps the central focus of this report. Although the evaluation noted limited success, national and international studies point to a greater potential for reducing costs and improving service for snow and ice control. Because of that potential, additional locations for installing sensors are suggested.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, April 1, 1993
Publication Number: 
WA-RD 323.1
Last modified: 
10/12/2016 - 15:41
S. Edward Boselly.
Matrix Management Group.
Number of Pages: 
Evaluation, Highway maintenance, Infrared imagery, Maintenance management, Meteorology, Road weather information systems, Snow and ice control, Temperature, Temperature sensors, Thermal imagery, Weather conditions, Weather forecasting, Winter maintenance.