Maryland prepares for winter with launch of new STORM web application

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The Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) has held its annual Snow Show event and unveiled its newest tool for citizens to plan for safe winter travel – STORM, a mobile-friendly web application link.

The new STORM (Statewide Transportation Operations Response Map) application enables citizens to track MDOT SHA and contractor’s pre-treating brine trucks in advance of a snowstorm and plow trucks during a storm in real time. Citizens can enter their address to see the trucks operating in their area.

The telematically-linked equipment is visible only when moving at 10mph (16km/h) or greater, which will eliminate screen clutter, especially near maintenance shops where trucks are moving at slower speeds. MDOT SHA says it is fully stocked with material and equipment is ready to keep Maryland’s roads and bridges safe and passable this winter.

While road salt is a proven and efficient way to treat roads during winter storms, MDOT SHA is making significant strides to reduce its overall salt usage. The agency now uses three different treatments to deal with inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions:

• Anti-icing (Pre-treating) – MDOT SHA pre-treats state-maintained roads with salt brine in advance of winter storms that are forecasted to start as snow on the onset. If it is rain or freezing rain, the material will simply be washed off the road, wasting labor, materials and time. The temperature must be 20° higher to apply salt brine (roughly 23% salt and 77% water). Crews spray brine on roads in the days preceding a storm, allowing it to dry, leaving familiar streaks on the road. The film on the road then helps to prevent the initial bonding of snow and ice from forming;

• Pre-wetting granular salt – Another proven salt reduction technique is pre-wetting salt before dispensing it onto the roads. MDOT SHA wets the salt with salt brine at the distribution spinner directly before its applied to travel lanes. This helps it adhere to road surfaces and prevent waste due to ‘bounce and scatter’. Experience and studies show that pre-wetting can lead to a 30% reduction in salt usage;

• Liquid-only routes – MDOT SHA has designated many routes in the state as ‘liquid only’ snow routes. This means that, in normal, non-blizzard storms, MDOT SHA crews will use salt brine only during the actual treatment of these roads during a snow storm.

To prevent state routes becoming clogged with abandoned vehicles and rigs, when the weather service forecasts storms with six or more inches (15+cm) of snow, MDOT SHA designates certain park-and-ride lots where commercial truck drivers can pull off and wait for the storm to pass.

The agency also deploys heavy-duty tow trucks to strategic locations where there is a history of trucks becoming disabled. These large wreckers help the removal of tractor-trailers and enable crews to keep lanes open for continued snow operations.

“The STORM app is an innovative way to enhance the customer experience,” said MDOT SHA administrator Gregory Slater. “An average snow route takes a plow driver approximately 90 minutes to complete. The new app will show where they are, and where they have most recently traveled.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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