Innovations cutting costs, overtime
Another season of snowfighting is underway, with most of those in our readership — those of us who receive snow, anyway — having received some decent snow events already. And with winter’s return, so too comes the long hours spent clearing the way for citizens’ commutes.
As noted in The Municipal’s November 2016 issue, several departments are beginning to turn to technology to save time and money in those efforts. For example, Maryland has begun employing infrared lasers to evaluate road conditions, namely to determine pavement and air temperatures and make the calls on how best to use its materials. These infrared lasers are a part of 42 new road sensors, which have been attached to overhead signs and poles along the state’s highways, and can evaluate the thickness of water, snow or ice within a millimeter. Pretty neat, huh?
In an interview with WTOP Nov. 18, 2016, Charlie Gischlar, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman, stated, “It’s going to increase our inventory management, so we’ll have a better idea of what goes in, what’s coming out, how much per lane-mile.”
Determining how best to use material and manpower has become the name of the game for many public works and street departments across the country. Some managers, as writer Barb Sieminski discovered, are even bringing in private weather forecasters to pinpoint when weather events are moving into their respective areas to decide when to call in drivers and other staff members. These forecasters also provide a head-start with advance notification that allows staff who might live outside of their municipality ample time to drive in safely ahead of the storm. You can learn more by checking out the story on page 26.
Of course, some cities and towns might be interested in following Holland, Mich.’s example, namely banish snow and ice completely — no snowplows necessary. And what Holland is doing isn’t exactly new technology either. Holland installed its first section of heated sidewalk back in 1988 before adding on, creating what is now the largest publicly owned snowmelt system in the U.S. It’s been a boon for the city’s downtown by drawing in not only shoppers, but businesses. Denise Fedorow shares more on this unique system and similar ones in her column this month on page 22.
Snowmelt systems are definitely a concept I’d like to see spread, but I’ve never been one for snow and ice — at least not since heavy slush pulled me into a sizable ditch as a high schooler. I’m still crossing my fingers for widespread use of solar roads. These roadways are also supposed to prevent snow and ice buildup while providing power and even alerting drivers to potential obstacles, such as deer or moose, among other benefits.
Beyond snow-related topics, The Municipal will also be looking at the growing trend of diverging diamond interchanges, which have been proven to increase safety, and pervious concrete, a roadway option popular in Europe that cities stateside are experimenting with to reduce runoff and flooding.
As always we hope you find this issue of The Municipal helpful. Stay safe out there and happy snowfighting!.
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