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Today we recognize the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) for its leadership in developing innovative weather response strategies for its roadways, and helping advance a cleaner, more environmentally conscious state. MassDOT is deliberatively building a culture of innovation that has produced broad and diverse benefits for state residents.

Weather Responsive Management Strategies

Every time the 15,000 lane-mile roadway system of MassDOT needs to be salted, the agencyspends $85,000 or more on salt alone. It has high environmental costs as well; The salt can contaminate 1 billion gallons of ground water. Massachusetts roadways can undergo up to 350 saltings per winter season. MassDOT is working to decrease the amount of salt used through the use of mobile sensors which provide detailed digitized data.

The FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) News, biweekly newsletter from February 2021, recognized the work of MassDOT and their installation of in-vehicle mobile sensors. MassDOT installed and tested 10 mobile road weather surface sensors on their roadway supervisor units and one snowplow for the 2019-2020 winter season. These mobile sensors enhance maintenance decisions as they provide information on grip level, roadway and air temperature, surface condition, height of water, snow, ice, relative humidity, and frost/dew points. Sensors can also assess the pre- and post-plow roadway conditions even when not in active use. They also allow for better determination of salt usage, reducing unnecessary waste, cost and environmental impacts.

Weather-responsive maintenance management (WRMM) strategies are also used to improve mobility and safety in adverse weather conditions, by reducing the environmental impacts and cost of road salt use. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Road Weather Management Program and Weather Responsive Management Strategies assist agencies in their response to adverse weather conditions on roadways. In the case of weather and salt management, these systems are environmentally sustainable because of their ability to reduce the amount of salt being used on the state’s roadways.

State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive Program 

MassDOT has nurtured a culture of innovation by taking part in the Federal Highway Administration’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) Incentive Program.

MassDOT has taken advantage of the STIC program for seven of the last eight years. Through the years they’ve implemented 12 different programs to provide information and education in a variety of areas. Most recently, in 2021, MassDOT’s STIC initiatives included a pre-apprentice electric vehicle technician program, digital radar speed signs in Rural Roadway Departure locations, and the implementation of a 2D and 3D Hydraulic Modeling program. In 2020, the program helped birth their Weather-Responsive

Management Strategies of mobile sensors referenced above for salt management during adverse weather conditions.

The FHWA Center for Accelerating Innovation launched the STIC Incentive Program as a way to encourage state agencies to cultivate innovation by assembling a committee to evaluate innovations and direct their implementation. STIC programs are only eligible under certain requirements, including the need for programs to have statewide impact in fostering innovation or bringing an innovation to standard practice. They are also required to be started as soon as practical, within 6 months or no later than 1 year. States can receive up to $100,000 in federal funding per fiscal year to support their STIC programs. Agencies can determine the best use of the funding whether it means providing workshops, demonstrations, training or other methods to advance the state of practice. By empowering a committee dedicated to institutionalizing innovations and ensuring deployment, FHWA is encouraging states to build innovative practices into their culture and systems.

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Sources: FHWA, MassDOT