In Md., snow-fighting efforts go high-tech

WTOP's Kristi King took a snowplow for a spin. (MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)
WTOP’s Kristi King took a snowplow for a spin. (MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar) (MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)
(MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)
(MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)
(MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)
WTOP's Kristi King took a snowplow for a spin. (MDSHA/Charlie Gischlar)

WASHINGTON — Infrared lasers that evaluate road conditions are one new tool in the Maryland snow-fighting arsenal for the upcoming season.

“They point an infrared beam and can tell what the pavement temperature is, and also the air temperature, how much salt is on the road and what its levels are,” said Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar.

Comparing air and road temperatures helps determine freezing points, which helps determine when de-icing products are laid down. And during storms, salt concentrations on the road can change rapidly.

“When the snow starts to melt and dilute the salt, we know where to go to add another shot of salt,” Gischlar observed.

The 42 new road sensors attached to overhead signs and poles can evaluate the thickness of water, snow or ice within a millimeter. They will replace the sensors that were buried inside road pavement.

Saving taxpayer money

A new scale system that works with front-end loaders will weigh salt that’s moved from storage domes into salt-spreading plows.

“It’s going to increase our inventory management, so we’ll have a better idea of what goes in, what’s coming out, how much per lane-mile,” Gischlar said.

When supplies in the salt dome get low, the system will automatically order more. The ‘loader scale’ pilot program being tested on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland will soon move into the D.C. area.

Live traffic camera system expanding

By June 30, 2017, people will be able to view live images of road conditions statewide from 60 State Highway Administration traffic cameras.

“Right now, we have almost 30 that have been added, and each day, more get added to that system. They’re all over the place and [in] places you’re not used to seeing,” Gischlar said.

These cameras in the D.C. metro area have been newly added or will be live by year’s end:

  • I-495 east of Md. 97
  • Northbound Md. 295 at Md. 197
  • Southbound Md. 295 at Md. 197
  • Northbound Md. 295 at Md. 193
  • Northbound Md. 295 at Md. 202
  • Southbound Md. 295 at Powder Mill Road
  • Southbound US 301 and Md. 5 near Timothy Branch Drive

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