Despite universally tough budget environments and the wait for Congress to reauthorize transportation spending, states are initiating new programs geared toward saving them money in road construction, repair and maintenance.
--De-icing: In Minnesota, the state Department of Transportation is using a telephone-operated system to dial into sprayers that can squirt magnesium chloride onto specific stretches of iced-up roadway. The sprayers can also be preset to go off at a particular hour, if a storm forecast is considered reliable. By cutting out the need to pay overtime for plow drivers, the squirters save MDOT a considerable amount of money. Similar systems are in place in Illinois.
--Avoiding Antiquities: MDOT has also started a program called Mn/Model, a computer model designed to predict the location of archeological sites. Encountering such sites can cause significant cost overruns, including complete redesigns of roads or lane extensions. "With the model," says program research director Elizabeth Hobbs, "we can use the information in the earliest stages of design to avoid archeologically significant areas." North Carolina and Washington are among those developing similar models.
--Quiet Rides: Arizona's transportation department is planning to cover 114 miles' worth of regional freeways in the Phoenix area with rubberized asphalt. The mix includes 20 percent tire rubber, which has the triple advantage of using as many as 10,000 recycled tires per mile, extending the life of the old concrete road and reducing noise by several decibels. The agency is negotiating with the federal government to become a pilot research area on the advantages of reducing transportation noise.