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Eye On Weather: Staying Ahead Of Storms With Road Information Systems

By Danielle Niles, WBZ-TV Meteorologist
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WBZ-TV's Danielle Niles Danielle Niles
Danielle Niles is the Meteorologist for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV Morning...
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BOSTON (CBS) – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is putting new technology on our roads to make them safer during the winter.

Sensors are now positioned on highways across the state continually measuring the pavement temperature and other atmospheric conditions.

That’s crucial in a region where more than 300,000 commuters use the roads every weekday.

Vaisala in Woburn is one company that manufactures and installs these road weather information systems.

One of the road weather information systems in Massachusetts. (WBZ-TV)

One of the road weather information systems in Massachusetts. (WBZ-TV)

“The main objective behind all of this, is to make sure the roads are not slippery, to make sure that they have good grip,” Vaisala’s Leon Shneider told WBZ-TV.

“The primary purpose is to monitor pavement information to make sure that the DOT knows what is happening with the surface”

Data from the sensors is transmitted to district offices across the state, including MassDOT headquarters.

“The communication that we have established gives us almost a real-time feedback as to what’s going on,” MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola told WBZ.

“We can actually put on the state roads close to 4,000 pieces of equipment during a heavy event to make sure that we keep our roads passable.”

Some of that fleet is being used for a special purpose.

Over the past two years, a blend of salt, water and magnesium chloride is being used on parts of Cape Cod and in the Springfield area along Interstate 91 as a proactive way to combat slippery roads.

(WBZ-TV)

(WBZ-TV)

The Sagamore salt brine facility, the only one in the state, can make more than 6,000 gallons of blended brine per hour. It’s pumped into giant tanks where trucks can load up and get ready to treat the roads .

“We can put this up to 48 hours before,” said Scott Wilson, the Director of Roadway Operations at MassDOT.

So as soon as the first snowflakes fall, the brine will activate and help delay accumulation on the roads.

“We save money by not putting out as much rock salt and we save the environment,” said Wilson.

“There’s less likelihood of it getting into the ground water and potentially into the drinking water supply,” DePaola said.

“Based on the success we may be looking to build additional brine production plants to make sure we have enough coverage.”

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