85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 9:30 AM
The U.S. Federal Highway Administration Winter Road Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) Project: Overview and Results
Paul A. Pisano, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC; and A. D. Stern and W. P. Mahoney III
Poster PDF (844.5 kB)
Since 2000, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Transportation Operations Road Weather Management Program has been involved in the development of a guidance tool for winter road maintenance decision makers. The tool, known as the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), is the culmination of work by a consortium of U.S. national laboratories directed by FHWA with significant input and feedback from numerous state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and commercial weather information providers.

The objective of the MDSS project was to prototype an advanced decision support capability that would serve as a springboard for further development and implementation by the private sector for state DOT clients. The MDSS prototype capitalizes on existing road and weather data sources, fuses data to make an integrated and understandable presentation of current and predicted road weather conditions, and provides a decision support tool that generates recommendations on road treatment strategies with anticipated consequences of action or inaction. The system also allows users to analyze alternative courses of action.

Primary components of the MDSS prototype include: a numerical weather prediction system, a data fusion and optimization system, a road temperature model, road chemical concentration algorithms, automated rules of practice for anti- and deicing, and a display system. The MDSS provides decision makers with information on predicted road weather conditions for user-defined locations along designated routes. Treatment recommendations are based on standard practices for effective winter road maintenance (e.g., anti-icing, deicing, plowing, sanding), which are tailored to the local procedures of the agency.

The MDSS prototype was field tested during the winters of 2003 and 2004 in central Iowa, USA. The system was used by maintenance facility supervisors responsible for local winter maintenance operations. By the end of the second field test, users expressed confidence in the treatment recommendations and began using the guidance to plan and conduct maintenance operations. Transfer of the MDSS technologies will continue through 2005 and perhaps beyond.

The potential payoffs of the MDSS are better mobility and safety on roadways, and more efficient and cost effective use of staff, equipment and chemicals. The latter would result in a reduced impact on the environment. Estimated benefits of the system based on the field tests include a ten percent reduction in direct costs for labor, materials and equipment.

This paper and presentation will describe the history, development, and status of the MDSS project. Results and lessons learned from field tests, current development efforts, and the technology transfer process will be discussed.

Supplementary URL: