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A winter severity index for the state of Maine.
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  • Abstract:
    Winter maintenance in the Sate of Maine consumes around twenty percent of the Bureau of

    Maintenance and Operations budget each year. Costs are directly related to the length and severity

    of a winter season. In addition, the cost of materials and equipment increases every year.

    Maintenance has been experimenting with new methods, materials, and equipment to offset the

    increased cost. Up until 1998 the Maine Department of Transportation had been using a reactive

    approach to winter maintenance. This involved placing a mix of sand and salt on the road during a

    storm, then clean-up with salt only after the storm. In 1997 the Department experimented with a

    proactive method which consists of placing salt on the roadway as close to the beginning of the

    storm as possible followed by continued applications of salt and plowing when necessary. This

    method was very effective at keeping the roads bare during a storm and appeared to be less costly.

    By 2001 most Regions were using the proactive method.

    With the switch from sand/salt mix to salt only it was necessary to upgrade the equipment to monitor

    and distribute salt more effectively. A number of spinners and hopper upgrades were experimented

    with. Evaluating each piece of equipment was based on observations and opinions. This method of

    evaluation is good but can be subjected to personal opinions.

    Another tool that would help determine cost-effectiveness is a Winter Severity Index (WSI). A WSI

    rates a winter season between 0 for a mild winter to 100 for an extremely severe winter. Index

    numbers are generated from daily snowfall amounts and temperature. A WSI is a consistent rating

    that can be used to gauge equipment effectiveness during a winter season or a storm.

    The Maine Winter Severity Index is a good indicator of seasonal winter conditions and correlates

    well with the quantity of materials used during a winter season. Correlation with seasonal costs are

    not as effective due to premium hourly pay and call outs for winter maintenance outside the normal

    working hours and the rising cost of materials.

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