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Collaboration Propels Improvements To Winter Maintenance Course

February 10, 2021 10:00 AM
By: Rich Kirkpatrick, PennDOT Bureau of Innovations

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​An ongoing partnership involving PennDOT, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) and PennDOT's Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) is taking the next steps to enhance important winter maintenance training for local government employees charged with delivering safe, passable roadways during winter events.

An updated and abbreviated Salt and Snow Management Course, now called Winter Maintenance 101, was offered for the first time in December 2020 in a virtual format, said Karen Atkinson, PSATS program manager.

"We felt in the time of the pandemic, getting information to the people plowing the roads and doing the hands-on work was more valuable," she said. "Prior to the pandemic, it was on the table to divide the Salt and Snow Management course in half. One part would be for the decision makers, the leaders who plan winter maintenance and who administer the plans, and the other for those who do the winter maintenance activities of plowing the roads and applying the salt, salt brine, or antiskid."

Old LTAP class
A look back at the traditional, in-person Salt and Snow Management Course
The concern was that in the former full-day course, with the first part focused on the administrative side, the frontline workers information was in the afternoon, and making them sit through a section that did not pertain to them was not a productive use of their time.

"This is a good change to focus on the two different audiences," Atkinson said.

The original Salt and Snow Management Course was introduced as a State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) innovation in 2015 with the goal of advancing partnerships and collaborations with local governments. The development of the original course was funded in partnership by LTAP and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) STIC Incentive Program Funding.

The second virtual Winter Maintenance 101 was held in January 2021 and a third is planned for February 2021. The administrative course is still in the planning stages.

Atkinson said inspiration to revise the course came from newly produced videos on winter techniques produced by the Iowa Department of Transportation.

"That's when we realized that with the pandemic hitting and the challenge of doing a full-day course in a virtual environment, it was an opportunity to revise the course, put the new videos in and make it a half-day," she said.

Winter Maintenance 101 is focused on the operators' day-to-day work: planning and organization at a high level, focusing on equipment, materials and operational strategies, proper calibration of spreaders, understanding brine and pre-wetting.

"With constantly changing winter staff at the local level, we are making sure they understand the principles behind winter, how salt works and salt brining and using the latest technologies to reduce salt usage for both environmental  concerns and economic reasons," Atkinson said.

For more information and to register for an upcoming course, visit LTAP's website.

Editor's note: Photos were taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.