Clearing snow from roads, sidewalks, and parking lots has always been a necessary evil for both public and private agencies. The task of keeping roads clear during the winter season is an expensive and time-consuming task that up until now has been mainly reactionary. In fact, an estimated $2.3 billion is spent annually to remove snow and ice from major highways alone, with costs rising more each year. In the past, officials in charge of maintaining the pavement have relied on generic snow forecasts from news agencies and the National Weather Service to know when and where to start plowing.
In the early 2000s, Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) came to market and were deployed by many states in critical areas to give agencies intelligence to plan around winter weather. These RWIS were extremely valuable but incredibly expensive. State agencies in the snow-belt states were able to budget for 10s of stations to cover main interstates and secondary state highways. However, the cost of these RWIS stations made it cost prohibitive to deploy at higher densities on the highways as well as on tertiary roads in urban areas. This has been problematic because assets like schools and hospitals are labeled as critical priorities for clearing snow for most municipalities, but operators in charge of keeping those facilities clear of accumulating snow haven’t had access to the benefits the RWIS have provided to the state agencies until now.
At the core of why RWIS devices are so valuable is a deeper understanding of how pavement temperature can fluctuate. Having a grasp on this information is necessary to make sound decisions about when, where and what material to use on pavement during a winter storm. As pavement temperatures approach freezing, deploying resources in a timely and efficient manner is key. When pavement temperatures approach the 15°F mark, pre-treating the pavement with salt and salt solutions can cause more harm than good because salt water freezes around that temperature. When the pavement is reaching the 0°F mark, pre-treating surfaces with expensive Magnesium and Calcium Chloride products also becomes problematic; any surfaces treated when the roads are this cold will essentially turn to an ice rink. By understanding the current and projected pavement temperatures during winter storms, we can make better economical and environmental decisions while successfully keeping the pavement clear of ice and snow.
With significant advances over the past decade in communications, power, camera and remote sensing technology, fighting snow is now high tech. Operators no longer have to guess how winter storms are going to affect the pavement surfaces. Lower cost mini-RWIS devices are now available to offer situational awareness and insights as to when snow-clearing resources are required and what material makes sense to utilize. These devices are easy to install on existing infrastructure like traffic signals and light poles and are self-contained. Real-time information about air temperature, humidity and pavement temperature, as well as high quality day and nighttime camera imagery for municipalities and snow-clearing companies is now a possibility. Safer roads, sidewalks and parking lots for us and the environment are now a reality.
To learn about how Frost’s mini-RWIS can help you understand pavement temperatures and conditions, reach out to us via the form below or at email@example.com.