GPS devices added to the arsenal of snow-fighting equipment
Technology will help NJDOT track and deploy plows and spreaders
(Trenton) - The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) today announced a new weapon in the annual fight to clear snow and ice from state highways and keep motorists safe throughout the winter.
The Department is introducing Global Positioning System devices in many trucks and supervisory vehicles to provide storm managers with constantly updated information on the precise location of the fleet of hundreds of NJDOT and contractor plow trucks and salt spreaders. Along with cell phone and email transmissions, the GPS data will arm managers with real-time information about roadway conditions and the progress crews are making in their assigned areas.
“We are excited about this new technology and anticipate that it will improve the teamwork among our crews, supervisors and managers that is so essential to a successful snow-fighting operation,” Commissioner James Simpson said. “Storms are dynamic events, and GPS adds another layer of communication that will enable us to quickly adapt our plans to conditions that can change rapidly.”
GPS devices will be placed in the NJDOT fleet of vehicles and in many contractor trucks as well. The data they transmit will be monitored at the Statewide Traffic Management Center in Woodbridge. The GPS devices will be installed on a wide range of NJDOT vehicles to better manage emergency responses and routine operations year-round.
Additional information on road conditions will come from approximately 180 sensors at 37 locations throughout the state. The sensors, which were repaired and upgraded since last winter, provide such information as temperature, wind speed and direction, and whether pavement is wet or dry. This data helps storm mangers decide when to take anti-icing measures.
NJDOT has about 1,870 state and contractor trucks ready for plowing and salt-spreading operations on the nearly 13,000 lane-miles that NJDOT maintains statewide. This number includes:
• About 420 state trucks to spread salt, apply brine or plow snow
• About 1,330 contractor plow trucks
• About 120 contractor salt-spreader trucks
NJDOT has identified a pool of approximately 1,500 employees and volunteers from other state agencies to draw from to drive trucks, load salt and provide other support services during winter operations. The number of workers called into service at any one time depends on the nature of the storm, including its breadth, intensity and duration. These employees and volunteers are assigned to 76 crews statewide.
Private contractors supply drivers for their trucks, so another 1,300 workers can be mustered at any time.
Current NJDOT stockpiles include:
• 153,000 tons of rock salt
• 618,000 gallons of liquid calcium
• 116,000 gallons of brine
Liquid calcium is used to coat rock salt and improve its effectiveness in melting snow and ice. Brine is sprayed on road surfaces prior to a storm to start melting snow as soon as it hits the road. Brine is also used in the same manner as liquid calcium, to treat rock salt and improve its effectiveness.
The Department will use liquid magnesium chloride on a trial basis at a few locations in place of liquid calcium. The magnesium solution is less corrosive to metal bridge structures and is expected to work as well as calcium at all but the lowest temperatures.
Materials are housed at 70 storage facilities statewide, including 49 domes and 21 sheds. Trucks and other equipment used to fight snow are stored at 68 maintenance yards statewide.
NJDOT has budgeted $10 million for 2011-2012 storm costs, with supplemental funds available as needed through the Department of Treasury. Last year, storm costs totaled $48 million.
Motorists are reminded that it is a New Jersey law to make all reasonable efforts to remove snow or ice from their vehicle, including the roof, hood, trunk and windshield. In the case of a truck, the law applies to the cab, the top of a trailer or semi-trailer being drawn by a motor vehicle, and the top of an intermodal freight container. Drivers who fail to comply with the law face fines ranging from $25 to $75.
Real time traffic information, including weather-related incidents, is available at www.511nj.org
NJDOT partner agencies
NJDOT's partners at NJ TRANSIT, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA), the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) and the New Jersey State Police are also working to maintain safe conditions during the winter months.
NJ TRANSIT has "winterized" hundreds of rail cars and nearly 2,100 buses as part of the annual preparation for winter weather. More than 750 switches and switch heaters, overhead wire systems, 12 moveable bridges and wayside power at storage yards and terminals have been inspected. Equipment including 160 snow blowers has been readied to clear snow and spread salt at bus garages, park & ride lots and other facilities. Snow plows for diesel locomotives have been checked and two snow blowers powered by jet engines are ready to clear ice and snow from tracks and rail switches. NJ TRANSIT has stockpiled 320 tons of salt to melt ice.
NJTA, which operates the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, also is marshalling its resources. NJTA is prepared to deploy about 280 of its own trucks and another 280 contractor trucks for plowing and salt-spreading operations. It has stockpiled 66,300 tons of salt and 192,000 gallons of magnesium chloride.
The SJTA, which operates the Atlantic City Expressway, has 52 trucks ready to plow and spread salt. It has filled salt domes at its three storage locations with 4,200 tons of salt and has 16,800 gallons of liquid calcium and 20,000 gallons of brine on hand.
The New Jersey State Police works closely with NJDOT during snow and other emergencies and will be assuming the responsibility of providing technical assistance to maintain the NJDOT GPS system.