The National Academies

NCHRP 06-19 [Anticipated]

Develop a Guidebook for the Use of Non-Chemical Methods for Removing Snow and Ice from Roadways

  Project Data
Source: North Dakota Department of Transportation
Funds: $300,000
Staff Responsibility: Amir N. Hanna
Fiscal Year: 2021

This project has been tentatively selected and a project statement (request for proposals) is expected in August 2020. The project statement will be available on this site. The problem statement below will be the starting point for a panel of experts to develop the project statement.

The FHWA compiled statistics that showed that during the 10-year period 2005-2014  approximately 321,000 vehicle crashes per year were attributed to icy or snow-covered roads. These same statistics showed 5,650 fatalities per year were attributed to adverse weather. This is approximately 10 times more fatalities than all the other adverse weather fatalities tracked by the National Weather Service.  While participation fluctuates from year to year, 44 state DOTs and one Canadian Province rely on AASHTO’s SICOP Technical Service Program, the Clear Roads, and/or Aurora Pooled Fund Studies to help them fulfill their winter maintenance mission. This clearly demonstrates the impact winter weather has on the transportation network across North America.  Road maintenance agencies employ a variety of strategies to maintain safe, passable roadways during wintertime weather events. In general, these strategies can be categorized into those that rely on the use of chemicals (primarily sodium chloride --salt) and non-chemical-based strategies utilizing mechanical means (e.g., brooming, plowing, scraping, or mechanical ice breaking). The reliance on deicing chemicals alone has presented issues for agencies as some salt supplies are becoming irregular with some agencies not able to secure sufficient quantities and the resulting increases in salt prices adversely affecting state wintertime budgets. In addition, some agencies are under increasing scrutiny from environmental and other user groups who question the impacts to the environment, durability of motor vehicles, as well the roadway infrastructure.  During very low temperatures the effectiveness of sodium chloride is diminished, and alternative chemicals may not be available or affordable in large quantities. For these reasons, agencies have identified the need to develop methods to reduce the dependence on these chemicals by exploring cost effective non-chemical strategies.

This research and resulting guidebook will assist state DOTs and other agencies across North America in providing a safe and reliable transportation network during winter weather events while reducing the amount of chemicals utilized and the resulting impact deicing chemicals have on the environment. This will be accomplished by evaluating new, non-chemical deicing systems such as specialized brooms, plow blades, motor-graders, and mechanical icebreakers, and developing best practices for their use. These best practices will be incorporated into a guidebook and implemented through training. Since the initial work on improved cutting edge research was conducted during the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) in the 1990s (W. A. Nixon, Improved Cutting Edges for Ice Removal, National Research Council, SHRP Report, SHRP-H-346, 1993, 98 pages), little research has been accomplished on this topic until the California Department of Transportation published an in-depth Preliminary Investigation (PI) on the subject (Using Mechanical Ice Breakers to Improve Snow and Ice Removal Operations, Produced by Duane Bennett, Advanced Highway Maintenance & Construction Center Technology Research Center for the Caltrans Division of Research, Innovation and System Information, February 18, 2016). This PI indicated the need to research new snow fighting technology to find ways to improve snow and ice removal while minimizing the use of deicing materials. The outcome of this research will be a best practice guide for snow removal operations utilizing non-chemical strategies. It will include methods that reduce the dependence on deicing chemicals during winter weather events. The research will then be implemented by holding training events.

The objectives of this research are (1) A literature review of non-chemical snow and ice removal techniques; (2) Review practices and interview operators at agencies who have adopted various types of non-chemical snow and ice removal techniques, including but not limited to Caltrans, Ontario, Minnesota, Alaska, and Utah; (3) Evaluate (a) Effectiveness in the removal of snow and ice pack, and improvement in time-to-bare-pavement; (b) Operational considerations including speed of operation, equipment maintenance, carrier vehicle requirements, and transport; (c) Impacts to pavement and other roadside infrastructure; (d) Identification of safety issues, and (e) Benefits and cost of ownership; (4) Develop a final report; (5) Create a guidebook and training syllabus covering appropriate application of non-chemical strategies; (6) Perform the training as part of, or in conjunction with at least two winter Maintenance Events (e.g. Clear Roads meeting, National Winter Maintenance Peer Exchange, APWA North American Snow Conference).

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