Clarus is a free federal software-as-a-service hosted by the Federal Highway Administration. Users automatically receive software upgrades without having to manually install them, while data sharing is available through the individual agency's computer server that houses local data.

“We didn't want security issues from owning a server,” DeVries says. “Also, the software package allows us to access data anywhere, no matter where we are — the office or from home.”

For its first two sites, the department chose a system offered by Quixote Transportation Technologies Inc.: 30-foot towers outfitted with cameras and other weather data-collecting instruments and Quixote's software package, RWIS online Navigator. Each site required an initial investment of $30,000 and $6,000 annually for maintenance, performed by Quixote, which cleans the cameras and inspects the sensors. The department funded the project through its five-year capital improvement budget.

DeVries sold officials on the investment by showing them the system has multiple uses beyond winter operations. “We can use the data for paving, pavement marking, weed spraying, severe weather outbreaks — a lot of extra opportunities for enhancing efficiency,” he says.

Complete winter operations
  • In addition to a road weather information system, pavement temperature can be obtained through less expensive methods such as a truck-mounted or handheld pavement temperature sensor unit.
  • Determining the direction that predominant weather patterns typically originate helps in deciding where to place sensors.
  • Several Web sites are available through the Federal Highway Administration, for example http://www.clarus-system.com. Also check individual state DOT sites that update pavement and air temperatures.