Marquette University, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
The Salt Institute, Alexandria, Virginia
Highway maintenance involves all work necessary to assure that the highway system is kept safe, open to traffic, and in proper working order. During winter, the removal of snow and ice from streets, roads, and highways is a major maintenance operation. With more than 135 million motor vehicles registered in the United States and roughly four million miles of roads and streets, local governments must be prepared to deal with the removal of snow and ice to insure public safety, and to reduce the adverse impact on the affected area’s economy.
Snow and ice covered roads can paralyze the functioning of the community and pose a considerable threat to the public safety. They produce hazardous driving conditions which increase traffic deaths, injuries, and property damage. The general assumption has always been that snow and ice on highways causes accidents. There are a number of reasons for this assumption. Snow and ice reduce the coefficient of friction between the pavement and vehicle tires, making maneuvering of the vehicle very difficult and occasionally impossible. Ice is not always apparent to the motorist and is not uniform, so that the driver is not always prepared when he encounters an icy section on the roadway. Vehicle mobility is reduced, causing possible severe disruption of important public emergency services, such as fire, police, and ambulance operations.
Without close attention to the effective removal of snow and ice from roads, the economy of the region involved will suffer, and traffic accidents will escalate. Most activities of individuals, industries, utilities, schools, and government activities are handicapped in social and economic ways during the duration of snow and ice conditions on roads and streets.