In 1998 WSDOT began a program to greatly expand the capability of its RWIS. The program, called rWeather, has resulted in a statewide network of weather stations that includes not only sensor stations owned by WSDOT but also almost 400 other stations owned by other federal, state, and local agencies.
This lesson is based on findings from an evaluation report completed by the Washington State Transportation Center in March 2002, with additional input from WSDOT staff involved in the project.
Implementation of the RWIS components serves primarily to help WSDOT maintenance personnel make better winter maintenance decisions. However, the evaluation report identified a number of barriers to full adoption of RWIS by maintenance personnel. The barriers included a lack of staff experience with RWIS technology and proactive winter maintenance practices. Similarly, a lack of confidence in weather and pavement forecasts and RWIS sensor information affected the use of the systems. Finally, a lack of training in interpreting weather information and the use of advanced snow and ice control practices was relevant. These barriers were compounded by a resistance to making the changes in current practices that would result in significant cost savings.
The evaluation document identified a number of targeted training and documentation approaches that would encourage maintenance personnel to take full advantage of the RWIS technology. These approaches included the following:
- Share information about experiences with RWIS and advanced winter maintenance practices as a way to reduce barriers to expanded use.
- Document the reliability of rWeather forecasts and share the results with winter maintenance personnel.
- Provide training, particularly in the interpretation of weather information and the application of anti-icing strategies. Make an effort to focus the right training on the right people.
- Provide strong management support for adopting advanced winter maintenance practices and demonstrate a commitment to necessary training.
The learning curve was a barrier to the implementation of rWeather tools. It is difficult to take full advantage of technologies for which there has been little experience, as was the case for RWIS in Washington State. As with any change in tools and procedures, expectations become more realistic with use. Many of the lessons learned from this project pointed to targeted training and the development of documentation that would familiarize maintenance personal with the benefits and use of rWeather.
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