Improving winter maintenance services cooperatively

Larry Frevert, P.E.
Deputy Director of Public Works, City of Kansas City, Missouri
Chairman, APWA Sub-Committee on Winter Maintenance

If you live in the “Snow Belt” have you tried any new winter maintenance (snow and ice control) techniques? Or, are you one of those people who think that nothing has changed, that fighting snowstorms is still only about plowing, spreading salt and abrasives, and it’s an “art not a science”?

The truth is that snow fighting is becoming more of a science, and use of such technologies as RWIS (Road Weather Information Systems), anti-icing, alternative chemicals, liquid chemicals, friction measurement as a means of determining quality of service, and improved plow cutting edges can help you provide your citizens with more efficient and economical winter maintenance.

How can you keep up with these changing technologies and how can you learn from the experiences of others so you don’t repeat their mistakes? One excellent way is to attend or send your key staff to educational sessions. The APWA North American Snow Conference (the next NASC is April 8-11, 2001, in Indianapolis, Indiana) provides many such educational sessions.

Another good way to keep up-to-date is to stay in touch with the activities of the APWA Sub-Committee on Winter Maintenance. This group, which is a sub-committee to APWA’s Transportation Committee, meets twice annually, once at the Annual Congress in the fall and once at the NASC in the spring. These meetings are open to all APWA members and “friends” of the winter maintenance community. Between meetings, you can follow the sub-committee’s activities through the Internet by checking out their web pages, found on the site. Once on the site, navigate to “Organization & Structure” and “Professional/Educational/Technical Committees,” then under “Transportation Committee” and click your mouse on “Winter Maintenance Sub-Committee.”

Currently, the sub-committee is identifying content, issues, strategies and potential contributors to a “Local Government and Urban Areas Supplement” to the Guide for Snow and Ice Control. To accomplish this, the sub-committee hosted a roundtable session at last month’s Congress and has posted notices on Internet mailing lists. However, if you have input you haven’t provided, visit their web site and submit a copy of the “Resource Input Form” found there.

The Guide for Snow and Ice Control, which was described in a Congress educational session in Louisville, was published in September 1999 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and is available for purchase through the APWA bookstore. The Guide (see the APWA Reporter, April 1997, “Member Input Sought for Winter Maintenance Guide”) was developed under the oversight of the Winter Maintenance Policy Coordinating Committee. This is a coordinated and cooperative effort involving AASHTO, APWA and the National Association of County Engineers (NACE).

Although the Guide is intended to provide value to all levels of government, there are still situations unique to local governments and urban areas, and the supplement to the Guide is intended to document these issues and provide strategies to address them.

The supplement is one of 11 strategies that have been identified by the Winter Maintenance Policy Coordinating Committee for further definition and documentation. These strategies, in priority sequence, are:

  1. Development of Computer-Based Training for RWIS and Anti-Icing Usage
  2. Identification of equipment and facilities for RWIS and Anti-Icing
  3. Road condition information to customers
  4. Driver Education
  5. Anti-icing chemical specifications
  6. Anti-drifting techniques
  7. Local Government and Urban Areas Supplement to the Guide for Snow and Ice Control
  8. Automatic fixed remote chemical distribution systems
  9. Model media package
  10. ITS/AVL/GIS technology
  11. “On board” freezing point measurement

These projects will be implemented through a program called SICOP (Snow and Ice CoOperative Pooled fund program). Its strategy is to solicit funding from agencies, federal, state, county and city which believe their programs can benefit from a specific technology and are willing to assist with funding for evaluation and documentation of a technology. The intent is that a technology can be identified, evaluated and documented without one agency having to pay the full cost of development. A shared funding program allows many agencies to benefit from the experiences of one or a few.

Funding for the first project has been solicited from various state agencies at $30,000 each. APWA has bought into the project for $5,000 and for this fee it will be a co-sponsor and will receive a printed manual or a CD version of the training which it can sell through its bookstore. Of course, for their $30,000, contributors will receive more detailed training materials than can be expected from the printed or CD version. Local government agencies which may be interested in “buying into” this project can do so for $5,000 or $30,000. For the lesser price, more detailed versions of the training will be provided than through the printed or CD version. For a $30,000 contribution, an agency will receive detailed computer-based training, either Internet or CD presented, which interactively depicts an agency’s weather patterns, policies, protocols and strategies it employs, and digital photos which actually depict the agency’s vehicles and road conditions. Any agencies interested in contributing to this project can learn more about it by contacting this author, whose telephone number and e-mail address are found below (as well as on the APWA Winter Maintenance Sub-Committee’s web pages).

This author, in addition to chairing the APWA Sub-Committee on Winter Maintenance, also represents APWA on the Winter Maintenance Policy Coordinating Committee. This allows the sub-committee and APWA as a whole to stay in touch with the activities of and provide input to the priorities of the Winter Maintenance Policy Coordinating Committee. This liaison is allowing APWA to take the lead in developing the Supplement, which will update 1965 and 1966 APWA publications on snow and ice control.

All of these activities have a common thread-“sharing” information, technology, skills and techniques so we can all do a better job of providing winter maintenance (snow and ice control) services to the traveling public on all types of highways, roads, and streets. Participation by APWA members is needed for this effort to be successful.

For more information, contact Larry Frevert at 816-513-2618 or