case

Safer roads in any weather

Case Study - Fort Collins Colorado: Safer roads in any weather
United States
Published: Mar 9, 2021
Aviation and Road Solutions
Weather & Environment

How the Streets Department of the City of Fort Collins uses mobile sensors and data visualization to proactively and efficiently maintain the city road network

The Streets Department of the City of Fort Collins, Colorado maintains the entire road network for the city. Known for their skill and dedication, the Department takes a data-driven approach to maintaining the roads and keeping them safe through the toughest winter storms.

The client: Streets Department of the City of Fort Collins

Always solution focused, the Streets Department has integrated several Vaisala technologies to build and improve their network — resulting in safer roads using less material for environmentally friendly and sustainable practices. Since snow conditions vary from one end of the city to the other, the Department uses a network of 14 fixed Vaisala Road Weather Information System (RWIS) sites, strategically located from the north to south ends of the road network. The RWIS sites are essential for helping them assess and maintain the roads effectively and proactively.

New technology for faster insights

With their RWIS network in place, the Streets Department sought ways to access road condition information faster and get ahead of maintenance as soon as—or even before—the roads became hazardous.

The Department began evaluating the latest technology, knowing that quick access to accurate data equals faster, targeted maintenance.

Mobile sensors and AI-powered visualization

The Department improved the winter maintenance decision- making process for supervisors as well as operators by integrating real-time data on weather and road conditions into their network. To get network-wide road conditions, the Department installed Vaisala Mobile Detector MD30s on ten of their snowplows. The MD30 tracks data including surface status, temperature and friction as well as air conditions. Front-facing video provides images of the road as the trucks complete their routes. Through an in-cab cell phone, the device identifies hazardous road conditions to aid Department supervisors in treatment decisions.

In addition, the Department has started to leverage Vaisala Wx Horizon. Wx Horizon is a new Vaisala solution that gives supervisors the forecast information they need to see not just when a storm is approaching, but how it is affecting road conditions throughout the city and precisely when the storm has passed.

Wx Horizon's powerful visualization tools driven by artificial intelligence (AI) show which roads are covered with snow and slush, for example, and which roads are still wet. This deep insight empowers the Department to deploy their fleet directly to the affected areas, resulting in safer roads in advance of hazardous conditions.

Better decision making for safer roads

The Streets Department now enjoys an advanced road maintenance network, where operators and supervisors alike are able to maintain the roads proactively using the right material at the right time. Where once the Department deployed trucks throughout the city to assess road conditions, now operators can change their approach based on real-time road information.

With Wx Horizon's powerful data visualization, the Department can plan their road maintenance strategy more proactively and with far more accuracy — saving time and costs while keeping the roads safer throughout the storm. The Transportation Department boasts more than safer, better maintained roads: They are able to attain high levels of service and make better decisions that benefit all modes of transportation, now and in the future.

"We get almost 50 inches of snow plus thawing every winter, and that creates hazardous driving conditions. Vaisala’s insight and onboard tools let us target treatments faster and meet our Levels of Service."
Larry Schneider, Director of Transportation Operations