Aurora eNews – Fall 2008

Up Front

Aurora Welcomes New Members

The Nevada and Michigan Departments of Transportation are the newest members of the Aurora Program. Both agencies joined Aurora in 2008 to improve their RWIS and winter maintenance programs.

The benefits from joining [Aurora] are numerous. We continue to seek advice and guidance from the lead states who are members of the group, and we’ve already starting working with surrounding states in developing winter maintenance data sharing and continuity of operations across state lines.” –Bill Hoffman, Chief Maintenance and Operations Engineer, Nevada DOT

Aurora Contributes to Development of a National Spring Maintenance Testing Program

In March 2008, several national organizations including Aurora proposed to form the National Spring Maintenance Testing Program to match project investigators with appropriate research facilities. An expert from the testing program will review proposed research projects and provide proposing agencies with information regarding:

  • past or current similar projects,
  • facilities capable of conducting the research,
  • availability of facility staff,
  • potential project timeline, and
  • expertise of facility staff.

This information will help agencies select the best facility for their projects and learn about related projects.

Detailed plans for the testing program are evolving. For more information, contact Tina Greenfield, Iowa DOT, 515-233-7746,

Off-the-Shelf Component RWIS

Aurora confirmed with this project that a programmable RWIS has many advantages over packaged systems currently sold by most vendors. Advantages include the following:

  • Lower cost
  • Capability to add and remove different types of sensors
  • Modifiable with a variety of competing components
  • Updatable as new hardware of software components are developed

To read the full report: Off-the-shelfFINAL.pdf

Update on National Spring Maintenance Peer Exchange

In summer 2007, Aurora partnered with Clear Roads, the Snow and Ice Pooled Fund Cooperative Program (SICOP), FHWA, and the Pacific Northwest Snowfighters to host a National Spring Maintenance Peer Exchange. Participants in the peer exchange identified 27 major research areas of importance to the winter maintenance community.

Aurora will spearhead six of the 27 research initiatives:

  • Training and education about weather and RWIS to connect the meterological and winter maintenance communities
  • Development of an on-vehicle salinity sensor
  • Development of improved light-precipitation forecasting and sensing
  • Development of low-cost, simple methods or devices for measuring roadway friction
  • Exploration of the use of high-definition satellite imagery to assess road conditions
  • Development of measures to assess forecast accuracy

For more information, or to read the full report from the peer exchange, visit

Using RWIS to Control Load Restrictions on Gravel and Surface-Treated Highways

Northern Ontario’s secondary highways are challenged by a combination of heavy, low-frequency traffic and a high number of freeze-thaw cycles every year, which together cause environmental damage and premature traffic-inducted roadway deterioration.

Aurora’s analysis of pavement performance on these roads indicated that earlier and extended periods of load restrictions could protect the pavement infrastructure and that better scheduling could result in up to six years’ additional service life for the pavement.

To read the full report: spring-load-restrictions.pdf

Find information about all of Aurora’s current and completed projects at Ongoing Projects and Completed Projects.

Michigan DOT

Michigan DOT

Michigan spends significant amounts of money on snow removal/maintenance every year. The state also has many crashes each year due to poor weather conditions. In 2008 the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) joined Aurora with the goal of providing the public with better roadway maintenance and timely and accurate information to help reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Dawn Gustafson, Michigan Superior Region traffic and safety engineer, says that Aurora has helped “provide a better understanding of what is available” and “what works for which purposes.” She also states that Aurora helps MDOT look at prospective solutions to specific issues, and different methods for construction, maintenance, and operation of RWIS and Environmental Sensing Stations.

Aurora provides advice as the MDOT develops specifications for installation of RWIS.

“Above all,” asserts Gustafson, Aurora provides the ability to “have key contact people across the country and beyond to utilize as a resource.”

Upcoming Events

6th Clarus Initiative Coordinating Committee Meeting

When: August 4-5, 2008
Where: Reno, Nevada
For more information, contact Andy Stern, 703-610-1754,

10th Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) Stakeholder Meeting

When: August 6-7, 2008
Where: Reno, Nevada
For more information, contact Andy Stern, 703-610-1754,

Aurora Board Conference Call

When: August 21, 2008 at 9:00 am (CDT)
For more information, contact Chris Albrecht, 515-294-7684,

FHWA Regional Maintenance Decision Support System Showcase

When: August 27, 2008
Where: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
For more information, visit

Eastern Snow Expo

When: August 27-28, 2008
Where: King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
For more information, visit

Aurora Board Meeting

When: September 24-25, 2008
Where: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
For more information, contact Chris Albrecht, 515-294-7684,

TRB 88th Annual Meeting

When: Spring 11-15, 2009
Where: Washington, D.C.
For more information, visit