Weather-responsive management strategies (WRMS) can help agencies affected by snow, ice, and other winter weather conditions to improve their road maintenance activities. Over 16 State transportation agencies currently use automated processes like maintenance decision support systems (MDSS) to support winter maintenance and operations. These systems use available road and weather condition information to make recommendations about the location, timing, and type of material for maintenance staff to apply. Many agencies also use data from fleet vehicles, such as snow plows, for traveler information applications that sometimes include a weather layer with plow tracking and/or plow images.

Photo of two-lane highway cleared of snow, seen on Minnesota Department of Transportation website.
MnDOT’s 511 website displays photos such as this one, captured by snowplows in the field to give motorists additional information for planning travel.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) uses WebMDSS, a web-based application, to manage its roadways and resources during inclement weather. The application provides road advisories, warnings, and treatment information and recommendations for road maintenance, and serves as the primary resource for forecasting. The tool allows MnDOT staff to make more informed decisions for maintenance planning and tactical actions through detailed, hour-by-hour, weather and pavement forecasts at the maintenance route level. These informed decisions result in improved mobility and safety, as well as cost savings and reduced environmental impacts from reduced material usage. For example, reports on speed while applying chemicals, average precipitation, material usage by route, and sander status support MnDOT’s efforts to track material usage in a more efficient manner.

Using existing mobile observation capabilities, MnDOT provides the public with information to make informed travel decisions. In addition to weather condition information in the agency’s 511 traveler information system, MnDOT provides road condition images taken from active plows in the field. This provides additional information on current and anticipated roadway dangers and conditions. Traffic operators can also use these images to create messages to post on dynamic message signs where needed, keeping motorists informed with real-time information.

To learn more about how WRMS can help your agency provide better response to winter weather events, contact David Johnson with the FHWA Office of Operations.


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