85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 8:45 AM
Partnering to achieve a safer and more efficient national surface transportation system: Commerce Departmentís National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Transportation Departmentís Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
Paul A. Pisano, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, DC; and A. Holman, R. Dombrowsky, S. Matula, J. O'Sullivan, P. Schultz, and F. Estis
The Commerce Departmentís National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Transportation Departmentís Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have entered into a NOAA-FHWA partnership to achieve their shared goals for a safer and more efficient national surface transportation system. Working together improves the likelihood that these agencies, along with other public and private weather providers, will enable transportation users and operators across the United States to make more efficient decisions during adverse weather through improved surface weather and road condition products and services.

The Weather Information for Surface Transportation (WIST) National Needs Assessment Report (December 2002) serves as a base document , with the National Research Councilís report Where the Weather Meets the Road: A Research Agenda for Improving Road Weather Services (March 2004) providing further support and direction. The first phase of the NOAA-FHWA partnering agreement addresses only a fraction of the recommendations of these two reports, significant public and private investments will be needed to fully meet all the WIST needs.

The first phase of the NOAA-FHWA agreement will focus on highway needs, at all levels (national, state, and local), as a priority and for prototype purposes. Surface transportation, in its entirety, is made up of six major sectors that cover a broad array of personal, commercial and national interests and affect individual and economic safety. Additionally, weather impacts in one region have consequences that ripple through regionally and nationally interconnected transportation networks, causing bottlenecks, delays in delivery, and imbalances in supply and demand that lead to higher costs for consumers. If capacity-reducing weather variations can be anticipated and communicated, and more precise mitigation measures can be implemented, overall intermodal transportation system efficiency can be improved while operating costs and the number deaths and injuries can be reduced.

The NOAA-FHWA partnering vision is to provide the nation with timely, accurate, and relevant surface weather and condition information that supports improvements in safety and efficient movement of people and goods. By working with federal, state, and local agencies; academia; and private industry, NOAA and FHWA will ensure transportation system operators and the public will have readily available weather and condition information that meets their needs.

The NOAA-FHWA partnering agreement established the following set of major and immediate goals, providing targets to work towards, though a sustained and significant level of effort will be required to fully achieve them.

The NOAA-FHWA partnership major goals are (1) a sustained year-to-year reduction in weather related surface transportation deaths and injuries through the application of improved surface weather products, services, and training; and (2) a sustained year-to-year reduction in weather-related delays and operating costs through the application of improved surface weather products, services, and training. The partnership immediate goal is the introduction of new products, services, and training so they are available to all surface transportation operators before and during their surface transportation activities. This is expected to lead to improvements in the application of weather information to surface transportation operations.

The first phase of the NOAA-FHWA partnering agreement groups partnering initiatives into five categories: Training, Observations, Numerical Weather Prediction, Databases/Decision Support, and Information Dissemination. Initiatives are proposed that range from simple to complex and from short to long durations. The emphasis is on those that can be started fairly easily and use minimal resources. The most promising initiatives include: 1. Training for Transportation Operations Ė Making the Most of Weather Products and Services 2. Training for NWS Field Staff Ė How the Surface Transportation System Works 3. Integrating RWIS and MADIS 4. Numerical Weather Prediction Methods and Practices for Road Weather 5. Prototype Database for Surface Transportation 6. Statistical Guidance

Additional information will be provided on these initiatives and other supporting activities to attempt to stimulate additional public and private interest in these NOAA-FHWA partnering activities.

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