The cold blasts that hit New Zealand during July and August have highlighted the winter performance of our highway network again.
Numerous roads across both islands were closed during the worst of the weather, causing delays, frustration and extended journeys. Early in July the New Zealand Institute of Highway Technology held a Winter Maintenance Symposium, the first since 2002. MWH was a sponsor and presented two papers at this event.
Ross McCammon, MWH’s South Island Operations Manager for Transportation says the symposium provided a vital opportunity for consultants, contractors, local authorities, the NZTA and other stakeholders to share experience and ideas around how to best carry out winter maintenance. The symposium also included a visit to the Milford Road, New Zealand’s most frequently closed stretch of highway.
Historically, many road controlling authorities have simply closed roads when icy or snowy conditions present safety risks, however this is increasingly viewed as unacceptable to heavy haulage and light vehicle users because of the cost and frustration associated with it. This means road controlling authorities ideally want to avoid, or at least minimise unnecessary road closures meaning that those responsible for the maintenance need to be well informed and have comprehensive response plans and processes in place.
For those thinking that climate change will remove or reduce the need for winter maintenance, a paper by Jordy Hendrix of Montana State University painted a clear picture of the future where winter maintenance remains a challenge. Jordy has looked at the potential effects of climate change on New Zealand and concludes that while we will see a general increase in temperature across the country and a general reduction in snow at low levels, we will also see more sudden and extreme events and a greater likelihood of frost in eastern areas.
Effective management of winter maintenance occurs when planning, forecasting, treatment and communication are addressed collectively by the consultant, contractor and client. Too often, one or more of these elements or vital stakeholders are ignored resulting in responses which are inefficient and ineffective and, at times, can be downright risky.
To discuss effective winter maintenance please contact Michael Flatters, MWH’s Dunedin Transportation Group Manager on 0274 4533 050 or email@example.com