NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” System Receives 2021 Outstanding Project Award from ITS-NJ

The Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey (ITS-NJ) recognizes outstanding projects or programs that employ or advance ITS technologies. This year NJDOT’s “Weather Savvy Roads” system, also known as the Mobile RWIS effort, received its 2021 Outstanding Project Award.

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads Program was recently recognized by the Intelligent Transportation Society of New Jersey

NJDOT’s Weather Savvy Roads (WSR) program started with NJDOT’s Mobility Division applying for and receiving NJ’s first federal Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) grant.  The concept was to procure and install mobile RWIS devices and dash cameras in 23 DOT snow-fighting vehicles statewide to view real time conditions and guide decisions for allocation of resources during a winter event.

The team is comprised of staff from NJDOT Mobility, NJDOT Operations, the NJIT ITS Resource Center, and technical partners from Vaisala and EAI.  NJIT created a web-based platform where users could view a statewide map and data from the RWIS devices and video from the CCTV6 in real time.

The WSR project was also designed to continue NJDOT’s investigation into cellular strength along NJDOT’s road network. This effort was first evaluated during NJ STIC Incentive grant funded program using iCone devices on SSP trucks. Utilizing a cellular router carrying FIRSTNET cellular capability, the technical team at NJIT is evaluating the strength of this first responder-only focused cellular system to see the various levels of signal strength. The project has shown tremendous benefits after just one winter season with staff across multiple levels of the Department utilizing the web platform to make better informed decisions about staffing and contractor use.

To learn more about the project, click on the NJ Innovative Initiatives, Weather Responsive Management Strategies page, or watch a presentation to the NJ STIC by Sal Cowan, Senior Director of Mobility at NJDOT about the equipment installation and web interface efforts taken for the pilot project.

See the FHWA’s Innovation Spotlight video on Road Weather Management: Weather Savvy Roads.

Center for Local Aid Support (CLAS) On-Line Trainings

The FHWA’s Center for Local Aid Support has developed a series of self-paced online training courses for local agencies and tribal communities. The addition of these courses demonstrates the agency’s commitment to empowering transportation professionals with the skills necessary to deploy new innovation that keeps transportation moving into the future.

The courses are conducted 100% online and are on-demand, allowing users to learn at their own pace and on their own time.

The training courses focus on Every Day Counts initiatives such as:

  • Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP)
  • Geosynthetic Reinforced Soil – Integrated Bridge System (GRS-IBS)
  • Gravel Roads Construction and Maintenance
  • Construction Inspection of Rockeries
  • Project Bundling: (1) Fundamentals Event, (2) Staging the Bundle Event, and (3) Creating and Contracting the Bundle Event

CLAS will continue to develop training that will keep transportation moving into the future. These courses can be accessed on the CLAS website.

NJDOT Awarded Accelerated Innovation Deployment Grant to Start Weather-Savvy Roads Pilot Program

The Federal Highway Administration has awarded NJDOT a $322,461 Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration grant to “start a ‘weather-savvy roads’ pilot program to improve roadway safety and operational efficiency.”

Preliminary plans include equipping up to 20 NJDOT road maintenance vehicles with dash-mounted cameras and weather sensors, which will feed real-time data directly to NJDOT year-round. The data will support improved awareness of road conditions and faster response times during weather events.[1] New Jersey’s winter season includes frequent precipitation, making for slick road conditions and added congestion. The data retrieved from the cameras and sensors will help quicken operations and also enhance deployment of incident management strategies.

This is the first AID grant applied for through New Jersey’s State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC). This year, FHWA awarded $8.4 million to nine states for work on innovative highway and bridge projects to improve safety and operational efficiency.

Importance of Weather-Responsive Management Strategies

Weather effects on our nation’s roads have enormous social and economic costs. According to the FHWA, 1.2 million (or 21 percent) of the more than 5.7 million vehicle crashes over the past 10 years were weather-related. Nearly 6,000 people are killed and over 445,000 are injured in weather-related crashes each year. In terms of mobility, the weather is responsible for 25 percent of non-recurring delays as well as congestion costs of up to $9.5 billion per year for 85 urban areas[2] and $3.4 billion in freight costs.

To address these problems, states can implement weather-responsive management strategies, which have many benefits including reducing crash risks and delays, lowering negative environmental impacts by minimizing road salt use, and enabling travelers to make better driving decisions.

In recent years, the FHWA Road Weather Management Program has focused on using mobile observations and connected vehicle data to support traffic and maintenance management. States such as Nevada, Michigan, and Minnesota have already implemented winter maintenance/anti-icing strategies using “Integrating Mobile Observations” (IMO), which involves collecting weather and road condition data from government fleet vehicles. Pathfinder, another solution, is a collaborative strategy across state DOTs to disseminate road weather information for proactive transportation system management ahead of, and during, adverse weather events.

Every Day Counts and State Transportation Innovation Councils

The AID program works closely with the FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) program to foster a culture of innovation. Every two years, FHWA works with state DOTs and other public and private stakeholders to identify new sets of innovative technologies that merit widespread deployment to address transportation challenges. State Transportation Innovation Councils (STICs) from all fifty states then meet to evaluate these innovations and lead deployment efforts.

Weather management was named a priority in recent years. In 2017-2018 the fourth round of EDC (EDC-4) cited11 innovations including “Road Weather Management – Weather-Savvy Roads.” In 2018-2019, EDC-5 identified 10 innovations including “Weather-Responsive Management Strategies.

See the FHWA’s Innovation Spotlight video on Road Weather Management: Weather Savvy Roads.