The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Weather Operations/ Road Weather Information System (RWIS ) program is unique among state departments of transportation nationally, as it assists the DOT operations, maintenance, and construction functions by providing detailed, often customized, area-specific weather forecasts. Staff meteorologists are stationed in the Traffic Operations Center (TOC), providing easily accessible weather information and quality control of weather forecasts. A national survey confirmed the benefits of such customized forecasts, including more accurate forecasts, timely forecasts and access to a forecaster, advanced warning of storm conditions, better response time and improved planning and scheduling of staff, and better use of chemical products.
By examining the labor and materials cost for winter maintenance in the 2004-2005 season for 77 UDOT sheds, an artificial neural network model was trained and tested to establish the shed winter maintenance cost as a function of UDOT weather service usage, evaluation of UDOT weather service, level-of maintenance, seasonal vehicle-miles traveled, anti-icing level, and winter severity index.
Having a weather meteorologist work in a TOC can increase the accuracy of local weather forecast information resulting in improved operations and cost savings benefits. Through the UDOT Weather Operations Program, meteorologists based at the TOC use information from environmental sensing stations in the field to provide detailed forecasts to winter maintenance personnel, saving $2.2 million per year in labor and materials for snow and ice control activities. That is, approximately 18 percent of the 2004-2005 labor and material costs. The program had an estimated benefit-to-cost ratio of 10:1.