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C H A P T E R 6 Case Study: Weather Management According to the FHWA, weather is the second most common The need to notify westbound travelers (particularly freight) cause of nonrecurring congestion, accounting for approxi- on I-80 of potential hazards and road closures has been the mately 15% of all congestion in the United States (1). Strategies impetus for NDOT to develop important internal processes for road weather management include focusing on improv- that involve two NDOT districts, state law enforcement, media, ing safety and traveler information, which can reduce the num- local agencies (including cities and law enforcement), and ber of weather-related crashes, and providing advance notice key freight stakeholders. The notification process has been to travelers so that they can delay their trips or use alternate expanded further east to include Utah and Wyoming; this pro- routes if possible. These strategies can improve reliability by vides westbound freight travelers with advance notification of reducing incidents that can block roadways and reducing the closures and parking restrictions to allow them to make alter- number of vehicles on the road that may be affected by severe nate route choices well in before of the closure. weather. This section presents a case study that examines the NDOT has established policies and processes to notify traf- process that the Nevada DOT (NDOT) has developed and fic (with a particular emphasis on freight) heading west on implemented for notifying freight travelers of freeway condi- I-80 that the state line and pass are closed. These notifications tions on I-80 during hazardous winter weather. are strategically issued to allow for traffic to divert in advance. ITS infrastructure, including DMS, flashing beacons, and high- way advisory radio, has been placed along the I-80 corridor to California and Nevada: I-80 notify motorists in advance of an alternate route. Winter State Line Closures To prepare for this case study, interviews were conducted Heavy freight traffic heading westbound on I-80 toward the with Denise Inda, PE, PTOE, Mike Fuess, PE, PTOE, and John Nevada/California state line needs advance warning about Talbott from NDOT. Inda is the assistant chief operations closures at Donner Summit, which frequently occur during engineer of NDOT Maintenance and Operations. Fuess is the hazardous winter storms. This segment of I-80 has an eleva- District 2 traffic engineer, and Talbott is in the District 2 Road tion of 7,000 ft. Extreme winter snowstorms are a significant Operations Center. District 2 has its headquarters in Sparks, hazard to freight and passenger vehicles on this segment, and Nevada, and covers the northwestern part of the state, includ- Caltrans will often close I-80 to westbound traffic if weather ing Reno and Carson City. conditions warrant. Although closures of the state line and closure notifications are initiated through Caltrans, if notifi- Description cations are not made early enough to allow freight and other traffic time to find suitable and safe parking or change their This case study describes the processes that NDOT and other route, the impacts on NDOT roadway facilities and local agencies have developed and implemented to address freight streets in Nevada cities and towns can be significant. Freight traffic issues on I-80 during hazardous winter weather condi- parking on I-80 during winter weather events causes several tions. Nevada DOT Districts 2 and 3 and Nevada DOT Head- problems not only to the freight drivers who are trying to quarters staff provided input to this description. maintain their schedules but also to NDOT's winter plowing Managing traffic on I-80 during winter conditions has also operations; moreover, it restricts lane usage by emergency been the impetus for NDOT to install traveler information vehicles and creates hazardous driving conditions for passen- infrastructure (including DMS, warning beacons, and high- ger vehicles. way advisory radio) in advance of key decision points to allow 55

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56 travelers to choose an alternate route. Freight drivers can to obstruct the I-80 shoulders. Because of the significance of either decide to find allowable parking at suitable off-highway I-80 as a major east-west freight corridor, multistate coordina- facilities further east on I-80 or use alternate routes to reach tion during major events is important. NDOT's efforts to their westbound destinations. notify state DOTs in Utah and even in Wyoming, both several Truck traffic can receive these alerts and notifications several hundred miles east of the Nevada/California state line, provide ways: NDOT DMS and highway advisory radio, DOT flashing for even more advance notice to freight traffic about upcom- beacons (warning that state line is closed), 511 and NDOT's ing closures. traveler information web page, commercial broadcast media, and truck stop announcements and notices. Process Development Operational processes (at NDOT) link back to closure stages identified during the multiagency coordination meetings. What Between 2002 and 2007, NDOT reported 23 closures on I-80 NDOT needs to do, from an operations perspective, is then at the Nevada/California state line and 31 truck prohibitions integrated into their established operational processes. because of severe winter weather (2). Nevada DOT has devel- oped and implemented specific processes aimed at providing as much advance notification as possible to westbound freight Background of Agency traffic that the state line is closed and that there are limited to NDOT is divided into three operational districts that cover the no parking options in Reno, which is just east of the Califor- entire state. District 1 focuses primarily on southern Nevada nia/Nevada state line. A recent closure of a 400-space truck (including the Las Vegas metropolitan area); Districts 2 and 3 stop has further exacerbated the parking shortage for freight are situated in the northern part of the state. Interstate 80 tra- vehicles near Reno. In some instances, NDOT indicated that verses in an east-west direction across northern Nevada trucks sometimes park on the shoulder or exit the freeway and through both District 2 (Reno/Sparks) and District 3 (Elko), park on arterials until they can cross the state line. and each district has operations and maintenance responsibil- Caltrans, NDOT, and associated partner agencies (including ity for this significant interstate corridor. state and local law enforcement) hold a meeting annually in NDOT has implemented Road Operations Centers (ROC) September, before the snow season, to discuss strategies, roles in both districts along this interstate corridor. Key functions and responsibilities, and extraneous circumstances that could of these centers include monitoring road weather information affect strategies, and to establish overall lines of communica- sensors and CCTV cameras at key locations; initiating traveler tion. This meeting is also an opportunity to fine-tune processes information and notifications through DMS, highway advi- based on previous years' experiences during winter closures. sory radio, Nevada's 511 phone and web traveler information Involving state DOTs in law enforcement, public information tools; coordinating with other agencies (including state law and communications, county and city operations, and enforce- enforcement, counties, emergency responders, and neighbor- ment, helps to introduce key stakeholders and obtain a broad ing states); and coordinating with NDOT district mainte- range of perspectives into the planning process. nance. The operations centers in Districts 2 and 3 are near the It was at one of these meetings that a hierarchy of closure I-80 corridor. The functional capabilities at each of these cen- activities was established and agreed on among the primary ters have been specifically designed to monitor and respond to partners. This hierarchy is based on expected duration of the incidents and emergencies along the I-80 corridor. Staffs at closure; depending on the duration, additional strategies may these district centers routinely coordinate with one another to be implemented. These levels and their associated durations support more effective corridor-wide strategies. Capabilities are as follows: have been designed in each center so that they can serve as backup for those in other centers. Level 1: Assumed duration of less than 3 h; Coordination for I-80 operations and, in particular, for Level 2: Up to 6 h; incident management or winter weather operations, extends Level 3: 6 to 12 h; beyond NDOT operations and maintenance to also include Level 4: 12 to 24 h; and law enforcement and neighboring states. The Nevada High- Level 5: 24 h or longer. way Patrol (NHP) is responsible for law enforcement and inci- dent management coordination and response on the corridor For the first three levels, controls are primarily implemented and is a key partner in overall corridor operations. From a by Caltrans for the state line closure and NDOT will initiate its winter-operations perspective, law enforcement is a critical own notification processes, which includes agency and traveler partner in restricting trucks from parking on I-80 because of notifications. For a Level 3 closure, District 2 or 3 will activate a closure at the state line, and NHP will turn away trucks from NDOT DMS further east on I-80. For Level 4 and Level 5 clo- the state line using truck turnarounds and not allow the trucks sures, NDOT and NHP will implement Nevada controls and

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57 will turn trucks away before they reach the Reno area, in addi- updating the information going to 511 and NDOT's website. tion to the Caltrans controls at the state line. NDOT District 3 also is notified to begin alerting trucks as This process has been refined over time, and although most they cross into Nevada on I-80 from Utah; a longer closure of the steps involve manual processes such as issuing notifica- would also necessitate notifying Utah DOT and Wyoming tions via phone or e-mail and text alerts, NDOT has incorpo- DOT of the westbound I-80 closure at the Nevada/California rated important tools into the processes to support notifications state line, and these states would also initiate notifications along the I-80 corridor through roadside infrastructure and its using their respective systems and infrastructure. The objec- 511 web and phone systems. The need to inform westbound tive is to minimize truck traffic approaching the Reno/Sparks travelers about these closures has influenced NDOT's planning area because there is limited to no available parking for and implementation of ITS infrastructure along the corridor. trucks to wait out a lengthy closure at the state line. Road weather information sensors provide real-time informa- Figure 6.1 shows a typical series of processes when Caltrans tion about weather, precipitation, and pavement conditions to initiates a closure at the state line on I-80. This graphic assumes the NDOT District Road Operations Centers in Reno/Sparks a Level 3 closure (6 to 12 h) and the external agency notifica- (District 2) and Elko (District 3). Traveler notification systems, tions that would be initiated by NDOT as a result of the prede- including DMS and flashing beacons, have been strategically termined strategies. As shown in this process diagram, there are placed before decision points along I-80; although DMS are several key integration points among NDOT and other agency located on each side of the corridor, there has been more processes to carry out winter operations on I-80. Process inte- emphasis on placing infrastructure to notify westbound trav- gration actually begins before a weather event affects I-80, in elers of closures or other concerns. the form of preplanning for response strategies among agen- cies responsible for traffic management, maintenance, enforce- ment, and notification along I-80. At a higher level, there are Detailed Process and Integration Points overarching interstate coordination processes for winter main- When weather conditions warrant closure of the Donner Sum- tenance and road closure operations that are also not necessar- mit pass on I-80 just west of the California/Nevada state line, ily specific to an event but provide the framework for which Caltrans will make the decision to close the state line to trucks specific processes and activities are carried out and coordinated and maybe to all I-80 westbound traffic approaching the in response to winter closures in this region. Internally, NDOT Nevada/California border. Once Caltrans decides to close the has established operational procedures that have evolved with state line, it initiates notifications to NDOT's District 2 ROC in the addition of technologies and systems for traveler infor- Reno/Sparks, which is staffed 24/7. As part of this notification, mation and agency communications. One of the most critical Caltrans will also indicate an estimated duration and will processes in the I-80 winter operations strategies are the trav- update NDOT if conditions warrant extending the estimated eler notifications. NDOT will activate various traveler informa- closure time. Caltrans also has remote access to be able to post tion systems, some of which are localized to the I-80 corridor messages on three DMS on I-80 in Nevada alerting westbound (such as DMS or flashing beacons), while others provide infor- traffic that the state line is closed to trucks or that trucks are mation to travelers beyond I-80, including phone and web- restricted. based systems. When NDOT's ROC receives the notification from Cal- Several key integration points were identified in the I-80 trans, including the expected duration of the closure, it sets in winter state line closure process, including the following: motion a series of actions for NDOT to mobilize according to the stage level (predetermined by the duration or stage level). NDOT initiating preplanned responses to state line closure For a Level 1 closure, NDOT would notify its District 2 main- by Caltrans once notified (Caltrans and NDOT process inte- tenance staff and District 3 office in Elko that a closure is in gration). This sets into motion several process activities, all effect and that advisories are being issued, including NDOT's of which result from agreed-upon strategies and protocols. DMS on westbound I-80 (already activated by Caltrans); and Road closure database updating multiple notification chan- input closure information into NDOT's statewide road con- nels of the closure and effects. This includes informing dition database, which then makes the information available internal stakeholders (NDOT District Operations and Main- through Nevada's 511 system and traveler tenance staff), as well as external stakeholders through its information website. Operators at the ROC will monitor road 511 and web-based systems. Media also use this information weather information systems and stay in contact with Caltrans to provide updated alert information through radio and TV to monitor the closure duration. As conditions warrant and broadcasts. if the closure duration is extended, NDOT will initiate addi- Extending notification to additional NDOT districts and tional operational procedures, including posting messages on other state DOTs (including Utah and Wyoming), who then DMS further east on I-80, activating additional flashers, and initiate their own sets of planned strategies and approaches.

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58 Figure 6.1. Detailed business process diagram of Nevada DOT I-80 winter closure. There is a predetermination of specific coordination actions closure, NDOT District 3, further east on I-80, also will have a based on anticipated duration of the I-80 closure. critical role. NDOT's internal processes have been established Monitoring truck parking impacts to the road network (for to effectively mobilize maintenance crews and equipment, safety of winter plowing and operations and emergency update internal databases (which provide data to traveler infor- vehicle use) and coordination with state police for enforce- mation tools) and activate traveler information systems. Oper- ment support. In some instances, law enforcement will ini- ators and Operations/Maintenance staff at the District 2 ROC tiate its own processes to implement truck turnarounds in Reno/Sparks also are responsible for initiating other noti- further east on I-80, thereby restricting trucks before they fications, including neighboring states, cities, counties, and reach the Reno area. truck-stop facilities along the corridor. Law enforcement for both California and Nevada are crit- ical partners in I-80 winter operations. While DOTs can ini- Types of Agencies Involved tiate closures of the roadways and implement processes for Primary partners for initiating and implementing winter notifications and mobilization of DOT crews, enforcement of response strategies on this segment of I-80 are Caltrans and these closures is the responsibility of state police and highway Nevada DOT District 2 and, depending on the duration of the patrol. NDOT indicated that the NHP also relies on trained

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59 volunteers to help staff established truck-turnaround points restriction information, and NDOT will be able to track how that NHP might establish along I-80 to prevent trucks from often this information is accessed. creating a bottleneck on I-80 while waiting out the closure. There is an agreement in place that allows Caltrans to cross Benefits the state line to establish truck turnaround and checkpoints on the Nevada side of I-80. Caltrans will notify Nevada DOT NDOT continually refines strategies and approaches for win- before mobilizing in Nevada. NDOT did not indicate that there ter management on I-80 to incorporate new systems or tech- were other formal policies in place to support specific winter nologies and changes in land use as a result of development response strategies, but rather agencies partner as part of a (such as removal of truck parking facilities or the addition of collaborative process to do what is needed to minimize the potential new parking areas or facilities), and incorporates les- impacts of closures on I-80 traffic. sons learned from previous winter events into its established Within NDOT, there are additional divisions and groups operations processes. A strong partnership with NHP has been involved in executing operations strategies for winter events on critical to successful development and execution of these win- I-80. NDOT's Public Information Office launched an outreach ter operations strategies. campaign to the freight community, notifying them of parking NDOT's processes are aimed at providing as much advance restrictions on I-80 during winter closures. They provided notification as possible to freight travelers that the state line is flyers and other information to each truck stop on I-80 and closed and parking on I-80 west of Reno is not available. Truck posted flyers at rest areas along the corridor (3). At some rest traffic can receive these alerts and notifications through sev- areas, NDOT has installed free wireless Internet, so travelers eral avenues: NDOT DMS and highway advisory radio, DOT can access information about weather, closures, and parking flashing beacons (warning that state line is closed), 511 and alternatives. NDOT's traveler information web page, commercial broadcast media, and truck stop announcements and notices. Freight drivers can choose either to find parking further east on I-80 or Types of Nonrecurring Congestion Addressed use an alternate route to reach their westbound destinations. Although most of I-80 within Nevada and near the state line Recognizing the importance of providing advance notifica- with California is considered rural (with the exception of the tion, particularly to freight, has been the motivation for NDOT Reno/Sparks metropolitan area), winter-weather incidents to plan and program specific enhancements and infrastructure. can cause significant congestion if trucks and other vehicles Corridor information needs along I-80 have resulted in NDOT are held in Nevada. NDOT estimates daily truck traffic of Districts 2 and 3 installing permanent DMS and highway advi- 2,500 vehicles per day on a typical winter day. There is the risk sory radio on westbound I-80, with an increased number of of crashes as a result of trucks parked illegally on the shoulder flashing beacons that are activated during state line closures on or in the outside travel lane on the highway. Parked trucks the segment of I-80 in District 2 approaching the Reno metro- pose a significant hazard for maintenance crews trying to clear politan area. The need to provide more comprehensive and roadways or for emergency responders who need to get to an timely information to freight traffic has also been the driving incident scene. Although the primary focus of the operations force behind some key enhancements to NDOT's 511 and web strategies and processes are to address the effects of winter traveler information system. This infrastructure is invaluable weather, there are also definite links to incident-related conges- for helping to manage winter closure events on this corridor, tion measures. but it also is used for construction restriction notifications, incident alerts, and AMBER alerts. Performance Measures Lessons Learned There are few formal performance measures in place to mon- itor and track progress of the various business processes and Prewinter meetings held before the snow season have been an integration strategies on I-80. Primary sources of information effective strategy in bringing together key stakeholders from are visual observations from NDOT and NHP about numbers Nevada and California to manage I-80 closures during haz- of trucks parked (potentially parked illegally) on I-80, or num- ardous winter weather. These allow operations, maintenance, bers of trucks that need to find an alternate route because of law enforcement, public information office, and others from an enforced truck-turnaround point. both states to interact, establish contacts, and discuss roles and It is difficult to quantify how many trucks might have sought responsibilities during winter events. an alternate route as a result of information provided to them The recent closure of a truck parking facility on I-80 in further east on the I-80 corridor. NDOT is implementing some Verdi, Nevada, just east of the California/Nevada state line, enhancements to its 511 service to include truck control and eliminated 400 truck parking spaces. The impacts of truck