FutureStructure

Ohio DOT Relies on Tech to Combat Winter Storms

The state's Transportation Department estimates that it has invested $100 million in new technology over the last five years.

by Rachel Murray, Dayton Daily News, Ohio / January 18, 2016

(TNS) — Advances in technology are aiding road crews as they deal with the challenges of clearing snow and ice safely and efficiently.

Weather stations, sensors embedded in the roadways, and in-cab touch-screen interfaces inside snow plows, are some of the ways ODOT is using technology to help their crews when winter weather strikes.

The Ohio Department of Transportation estimates it has invested $100 million in new technology over the last five years. The investment includes the purchases of new plow and salt trucks across the state.

“They have all of these tools that help them be efficient when it comes to treating the roadways and keeping them clear. Obviously, that is something that’s passed on to the traveling public, because when the roads are clear it’s safer for everyone,” said Mandi Dillon, spokesperson for ODOT.

All plow trucks in ODOT’s District 7, which includes Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Darke, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery and Shelby counties, are equipped with touch screen technology, and a control panel that resembles a video game controller, according to Dillon.

The controller replaces a difficult to maneuver lever system, and allows the driver to control the plow and the amount of salt, brine, and chemicals the truck releases onto the roadway with very little effort, said ODOT mechanic Matt Rhoades.

Road and Weather Information System stations collect data that can provide real-time updates.

There are 21 solar-powered RWIS stations in the greater Miami Valley area, and 179 of them throughout the state of Ohio, according Matt Bruning, ODOT press secretary.

Each RWIS station has one or more disc-shaped road sensors embedded in the pavement nearby which collect weather conditions, temperatures, traffic speeds, wind speeds, and road conditions, including determining whether the road is wet from snow, rain, or chemicals.

The data is transmitted to the State of Ohio Computer Center every few minutes, and also to the website www.ohgo.com.

RWIS stations are useful to ODOT and to the general public.

Motorist Nathan Wourms of Middletown drives I-75 frequently, and he said he’s all for anything that helps keep him safe when he drives.

“It’s pretty impressive. You don’t even see them on the roads and they can do all that, that’s pretty good use of technology,” said Wourms.

WHIO-TV and radio traffic reporter Mark Bowron uses information from ohgo.com and the dozens of ODOT cameras around the Dayton region to prepare his traffic updates. “We used to fly in an airplane and somebody would say ‘There’s a crash up here,’ and we’d fly over or try to fly over to see what was going on,” Bowron said.

“Now we’ve got all these road sensors that are basically letting us know where the problems are on the highway. It’s fantastic,” said Bowron.

He said the technology is helping the average driver get around more quickly and safely.

“No question about it. If it was delayed it would be different, but because this is almost real-time now, you can tell people about an issue right away — the immediacy of this system is what I like about it. It is giving you the right now,” said Bowron.

ODOT is testing more technology in a pilot program with the University of Akron. Some plow trucks across the state, including in Lima and Cincinnati have been equipped with GPS and live video feeds to investigate whether those technological additions will further improve efficiency.

©2016 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.