• The Ohio DOTs three-tiered snow and ice performance evaluator combines National Weather Service, pavement condition, and traffic data.

    Credit: ODOT

    The Ohio DOT’s three-tiered snow and ice performance evaluator combines National Weather Service, pavement condition, and traffic data.

Three-tier system

The statewide RWIS is an automated system of 450 pavement sensors and 72 remote processing units that track driving surface condition, air temperature, wind speed, direction, and precipitation. ODOT uses this data to reduce labor and material costs by calculating the optimal time for applying chemical treatments to pavement.

Historical weather data comes from Inrix Inc. of Kirkland, Wash., a provider of traffic information, forecasts, and travel times anonymously gathered from smartphones and other GPS-enabled mobile devices traveling North America’s 1 million miles of road.

Abner Johnson, an operations maintenance planner in ODOT’s Central Office in Columbus, monitors the three data streams. If they indicate severe weather is on the way, he and his colleagues organize a conference call with county managers and district maintenance administrators in its path. A large lake effect snowstorm off Lake Erie in the northern part of the state, for example, could affect up to three ODOT districts and 20 county garages.

“Most garages need two hours to get up to speed,” says Johnson. “Therefore, managers need two or three hours advance notice to plan what they and their people are going to do and how they’ll react.”

These pre-planning sessions pay off when the storm hits.

“When I first started, we wouldn’t get called in until there were 2 inches of snow on the roads,” says Kevin Buck, a highway technician in Montgomery County, which includes Dayton. “Now we get called in before the storm arrives. When it gets here, we’re ready. Also, we now go to adjoining counties if they need help. It can make for a 16-hour day, but all of us know that what we do is important for everyone.”

Next page: Two-hour recovery goal