ICT Develops Chloride Reduction Training Program for IDOT Winter Operations

To ensure that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), local public agencies, and other major users of deicing salts in Illinois have access to information on best practices to minimize the environmental impact of chlorides used for deicing, IDOT commissioned a study by the Illinois Center for Transportation (ICT) to create a chloride reduction training program. One of the major sources of chloride is the road salt used in deicing applications. Chloride has adverse effects on some plants and aquatic biota and may pose a risk to infrastructure and ecosystems.

According to Tim Peters, Local Policy and Technology Engineer in IDOT’s Bureau of Local Roads and Streets, the department has provided various forms of chloride production training for more than ten years. However, a better awareness of the environmental effects of road salt and improvements in technology increased IDOT’s interest in continuing to promote effective use of deicing chemicals.

The Illinois Center for Transportation and principal investigator Wilfrid Nixon, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, undertook a project to develop a new training program. The project was led by an IDOT Technical Review Panel chaired by Peters. The ultimate purpose of the training is to reduce the quantity of road salt while still maintaining the required levels of service to keep Illinois roadways safer for winter driving. The training was built around the three objectives of winter maintenance: safety, mobility, and environmental protection.

Another goal of the project was to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of the training. Nixon developed a method using a storm severity index summed over an entire winter season. The premise is that the severity of a winter can be reduced to a single number with which the effort expended by IDOT for winter maintenance should correlate. However, as Peters explains, measuring and quantifying specific results can be difficult because every storm is different, and even season-to-season comparisons are not simple because of the considerable variability of winter storms from year to year.

In his project report, Nixon says that the training covers topics ranging from the purpose of winter maintenance to application rates and calibration to forecasts and storm tactics. The instructional material is available in two formats. One format is a traditional PowerPoint presentation with embedded videos. The other format is a series of short videos that present the information in 3- to 5-minute “learning chunks.”

He adds that these two modes of presentation provide IDOT with flexibility in their training approach—for example, employees hired after the initial training was provided can view the video series on their own. The availability of two modes of presentation also accommodates different learning styles.

The department has more than 3,500 full- and part-time highway maintenance workers involved in winter operations who benefit from this training. Field supervisors and managers are also trained. In addition, the training program has been shared with other state departments of transportation through the Clear Roads Pooled Fund Study.  The products of the study will also be available for local public agencies through IDOT’s Technology Transfer Center.

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Sustainable winter operations use the most appropriate snow and ice control equipment, processes, and materials for the unique objectives and conditions—and in a way that does not compromise the ability of future generations to do likewise.


Posted June 19, 2015