Weather Stations Improve Winter Operations
Thirteen new Environmental Sensor Stations across Interstate 44 are helping make roads safer for drivers and saving the department valuable time, resources and money. The new stations were all installed by the end of December, in time to provide weather information for, what has turned out to be, a very busy winter season.
The 13 new stations are part of a statewide Road Weather Information System across Missouri, which includes three other operational stations currently in St. Joseph and St. Louis. A typical station includes a 30-foot tower with weather sensors to monitor wind, temperature, humidity, visibility and pavement surface and sub-surface temperatures.
“These stations give us the same information meteorologists use, but they also allow us to know what’s going on where the rubber meets the road,” says Tim Jackson, Maintenance liaison engineer. “Knowing the pavement temperature is a key factor in understanding whether snow will stick to the roads and whether we need to treat them or not.”
Knowing this information means the department isn’t wasting personnel time, materials or equipment to treat roads when it’s not necessary, which translates into saving money as well as improving safety.
A recent snow storm gives the perfect example of how these stations are helping. According to Jackson, the Southwest District used the stations to determine that because the pavement temperatures were warm enough, they only needed to treat bridges along their stretch of Interstate 44, instead of the entire route. This one incident alone saved thousands of dollars.
“The stations actually pay for themselves after a while,” Jackson says. The 13 new stations cost $451,000. They were paid for through a combination of district and central office division funds.
Although the department has had stations in place since the ‘90s, this is the first time they have concentrated on a specific corridor to help manage it better. The new stations are maintained by the company that installed them to ensure we receive accurate weather information to help maintenance supervisors direct snow removal operations. .
“We picked I-44 because we’ve noticed a lot of storms come from the southwest and head northeast along this corridor,” Jackson says. If we receive additional funding, the department may look at installing these on other corridors in the future.