Communicating Road Weather Impacts to the Traveling Public (334)

Brenda Boyce, Booz Allen Hamilton, Overland Park, KS

Paul Pisano, FHWA

Gabriel Guevara, FHWA

Roemer Alfelor, FHWA

Raymond Murphy, FHWA



Quantitative and anecdotal evidence has demonstrated thatmotorists respond to high-impact road weather forecast messages moreconsistently when the forecast information they receive from disparate mediaoutlets contains the same travel impact message across all outlets. However, amultitude of forecasting and transportation entities within a givengeographical area will release their own forecast for road weather informationprior to a storm, placing the burden of aggregating and weighing theinformation on the traveling public themselves, and decreasing theeffectiveness of the intended public decision support services supplied bythese entities. In an effort to better serve the end-user (the traveling public),NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) and the U.S. Department of Transportation(DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have teamed up on the PathfinderProject to build a framework that facilitates collaborative partnershipsbetween NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFO), State departments of transportation(DOT) and, if applicable, the DOTs' private sector weather service provider(WSP) and local media. A key mission shared among State DOTs and the NWS is toimprove safety, mobility and the economy. Essential to accomplishing thismission is communicating information to the public to support theirdecision-making and preparedness when faced with rain, snow, fog, wind,flooding or other potentially impactful weather on the surface transportationsystem. Through collaboration on a road weather impact message, both the DOTand the NWS can better serve the needs of the public and accomplish theirmission. Here, the term impact is used to distinguish the type of forecast relayed to the public: the impactforecast adds value to a standard weather forecast by placing the weather intothe context of the local transportation system. Impact considers the weather, the road surface, average traffic volumes, how the weather's interaction with the road surface and/or vehicleswill affect traffic, how effective maintenance mitigation efforts will beduring the event, and so on. Time of day and traffic volume are important, asthe impact of a snowstorm will be greatly increased if it is forecast to beginat 5:00 pm, just at the start of rush hour.