CTRE  en route
Summer 2004

CTRE en route is published twice a year to inform readers about CTRE's projects and programs.


Address: CTRE, 2901 S. Loop Drive, Suite 3100, Ames, IA 50010

Phone: 515-294-8103
FAX: 515-294-0467

Website: www.ctre.iastate.edu/

CTRE Communications:
Marcia Brink
CTRE en route editor:
Michele Regenold

CTRE is an Iowa State University center.

Iowa State University: Becoming the best

From the Director: Road Weather Research

by Steve Andrle, CTRE Director

Weather fascinates us. People pay more attention to the weather than any other news item except, perhaps, sports. A new angle on weather is “road weather.” This pertains to the weather characteristics at the surface of the road.

Road weather is now a national priority and for good reason. Adverse weather is associated with over 1.5 million vehicular accidents per year, accounting for about 800,000 injuries and 7,000 fatalities, according to the National Academy of Sciences 2004 report Where the Weather Meets the Road. In 2003, the American Meteorological Society released Weather and Highways, a report of a two-day forum on how to improve highway safety through better weather information. The Federal Highway Administration has developed and is field testing the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), a package of improved micro-level road weather forecasting and response tools. Finally, Congress is considering special funding for road weather research and safety programs.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) is very interested in road weather and, with the assistance of CTRE, took the first step toward creating a regional program in road weather research and demonstrations. As Chris Albrecht of CTRE’s staff put it, this is a regional affirmation of a national priority.

On July 14, 2004, more than 100 people from seven states met at Iowa State University to discuss road weather issues and how to advance the state of the practice in the region. Focus group discussion topics included

  • weather equipment, data, and prediction
  • road maintenance – technologies, storm management, and operations
  • traffic management and operations
  • facilities
  • road design and construction

Twenty-five research topics were developed and prioritized. The Iowa DOT agreed to provide leadership until a regional structure can be developed, and CTRE is preparing a report on the workshop results, which will be available on the Weather Issues in Transportation website.

The Iowa DOT and CTRE have been engaged in a number of road weather projects:

  • Since 1997, CTRE has helped the Iowa DOT develop and evaluate the “Concept Vehicle,” a snowplow equipped with experimental devices for measuring friction, pavement temperature, application rates, and the freezing point of the slurry on the road surface.
  • The management of the AURORA pooled fund study, which started in 1996, moved to Iowa in 2004. AURORA conducts research on road weather information systems for the 12 member states, Ontario, Quebec, and the Swedish Road Ministry.
  • The Iowa DOT was host to FHWA’s field tests of the MDSS during the winters of 2003 and 2004. CTRE assisted the Iowa DOT with data collection and evaluation on location-specific treatment rates.
  • CTRE and ISU have conducted nearly 40 research projects on weather-related topics. Refer to this website for information on weather research: http://www.ctre.iastate.edu/research/weather.cfm.