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Publication Number:      Date:  Jan/Feb 2001
Issue No: Vol. 64 No. 4
Date: Jan/Feb 2001


Learning to Beat Snow and Ice

by Deborah Vocke

On Sept. 6 and 7, 2000, more than 1,500 snowplow operators, highway and public works officials, and airport managers gathered at the Roanoke (Va.) Civic Center to attend the 5th Annual Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo. The symposium was co-hosted this year by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and it was held in conjunction with the 5th International Symposium of Snow Removal and Ice Control, which was sponsored by the Transportation Research Board.

photo of exhibition
About 115 exhibitors participated in the Eastern Winter Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo in the Roanoke (Va.) Civic Center.

The participants, who came from 36 states and 14 nations and who represented all levels of government, attended the symposium and exposition to check out the latest technologies and methods to maintain highway mobility and safety in inclement winter weather. More than 115 exhibitors displayed their wares, ranging from heated windshield wiper blades to robotic pothole-patching machinery. The exhibits included 54 large snow/ice-control vehicles and equipment.

In addition to the exhibits, the symposium included 18 educational sessions on a variety of technical topics, including automated bridge deck deicing, advanced weather systems technology, route optimization systems, automated vehicle-location systems, advanced snowplows, and VDOT's "Smart Road" technologies. The Smart Road near Blacksburg, Va., is a state-of-the-art, full-scale research facility for pavement research and the evaluation of Intelligent Transportation Systems concepts, technologies, and products. Bus tours to the Smart Road were offered, and participants observed a variety of technologies featured there, including the all-weather (snow, ice, rain) testing capabilities provided by the 75 snow-making towers. The participants also had several opportunities to network and to "compare notes" about their experiences.

Nationally, municipalities and state highway agencies spend at least $2 billion a year to combat the effects of snow and ice on travel during the winter months. After these storms, about $4 billion is spent by those same jurisdictions to repair the damage that is done to the infrastructure. And these figures do not include the costs associated with lost time or wages incurred by those who cannot get to work or school, and they do not address the number of lives affected, and perhaps endangered, when emergency response is delayed by snow-covered roadways. The Eastern symposium/expo was inspired by the Blizzard of 1996, which virtually paralyzed many Eastern cities, including the nation's capital.

Together, the Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo and the American Public Works Association's annual Western Snow and Ice Conference in Colorado provide opportunities for snow/ice-management officials and operators from throughout the United States to learn about the best practices, materials, and equipment.

FHWA's Eastern Resource Center, with the support of FHWA's Operations Core Business Unit, will help states that are east of the Mississippi River to co-host this event. Over the past five years, the District of Columbia Department of Public Works, Maryland Department of Transportation (DOT), Pennsylvania DOT, New York State DOT, and now VDOT co-hosted this annual event. On Sept. 5 and 6, 2001, the symposium/expo will be co-hosted by the Massachusetts Highway Department, and it will be held in the Centrum Centre in Worchester, Mass.

Deborah Vocke is the marketing specialist for the Federal Highway Administration's Eastern Resource Center in Baltimore, Md.

For more information (as it becomes available) about the 2001 symposium/expo, check the official Eastern Winter Road Maintenance Symposium and Equipment Expo Web site at www.easternsnowexpo.org. For information about co-hosting the event in 2002 or beyond, contact Deborah Vocke at (410) 962-3744.



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