Final Report of the FORETELL Consortium Operational Test: Weather Information for Surface Transportation
FORETELLTM was developed as a multi-state weather information network designed to reduce winter weather accidents by providing highway managers, trucking professionals, and transit operators with real-time and forecast roadway weather information derived from multiple sources. FORETELL collected weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS), Environment Canada, Road Weather Information System (RWIS) stations, and sensors at airports and agricultural sites. This data was input into advanced heat balance models to forecast road surface temperatures and predict when and where precipitation would melt, freeze, or blow off the road. The real-time weather data and advanced forecast information was made available to users via the Internet.
The FORETELL website provided a simple interface that detailed a Weather Display and a Road Display. The Weather Display detailed temperature, precipitation, dewpoint and humidity, wind, forecasted radar, clouds, atmospheric pressure, and accumulation totals. The Road Display detailed overall road condition, road pavement temperature, road dewpoint, road freeze point, and road snow depth. The Animate function (the most used feature on the FORETELL interface) showed how these parameters changed over time.
DOTs in Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Canada, collaborated to develop FORETELL as a multi-state weather information website. During the first year of operations (winter 2000), the Internet server supporting FORETELL had limited capacity; therefore, to preserve the system reliability, only highway maintenance operators were given access. During the second year (winter 2001) additional groups participated, including commercial vehicle operators, highway patrols, school administrators, transit operators, and traffic managers.
To reduce potential bias, care was taken not to promote or market the system to participants. In a number of training sessions, evaluators noted that highway maintenance operators were interested in exploring new ways to use the FORETELL data to improve road treatment strategies (e.g., plowing, spreading abrasives, and application of deicing agents).
Surveys were collected before and after deployment to determine the impact of FORETELL on the individual weather-related activities of users. In November 1999, baseline data were collected, and then follow-up surveys were conducted for two consecutive winters. During the baseline year, 66 highway maintenance operators submitted surveys and 37 operators submitted 224 activity/weather logs. In the winter of 2000-2001, FORETELL website was made available to highway maintenance operators. During this first year of operations, 87 surveys were collected and 28 operators submitted 229 activity/weather logs. The following year (winter of 2001-2002), 47 surveys were collected from highway maintenance operators and 14 operators submitted 136 activity/weather logs. FORETELL was made available to other participant groups (e.g., Commercial vehicle operators, highway patrols, school administrators, and transit operators), however, the number of respondents in each of these groups was not sufficient to draw statistically significant conclusions.
Highway Maintenance Operators
Highway maintenance operators represented over 90 percent of respondents surveyed. After FORETELL was deployed, this group found winter weather information more understandable and useable.
Approximately 30 to 40 percent of highway maintenance operators who used the system changed weather-related decisions based on the FORETELL information provided (e.g., wind speed/direction, precipitation, atmospheric temperature, pavement temperature, pavement condition, and dewpoint).
Greater than 50 percent of users said they wanted to continue using FORETELL in the future, and about 20 percent of users said they would pay for the service.