This is truly an example of using technology to work smarter. Leveraging these technologies helped Cobb DOT streamline our response to winter weather. It's a game changer.
Leveraging GIS Solutions For a Powerful Approach to Snow Events
Located northwest of Atlanta and overseeing approximately 2,500 miles of centerline roadways, the Cobb County Department of Transportation (DOT) manages the second-largest county-owned road network in Georgia. And while the Peach State isn't known for being the snowiest state in the US, Cobb County does face winter weather events that have a major impact on its team and residents.
Whether it's an inch of snow, making for an unexpectedly slick commute, or a full-blown ice storm shutting down highways, the forward-thinking GIS team members of Cobb County recognize the complexity of winter weather events—and the importance of reacting quickly and efficiently to keep their roadways as safe as possible.
When setting out to build their readiness plans for winter weather, Cobb County DOT staff focused on creating predefined treatment routes, maintaining proper equipment for deicing and snow removal, and establishing multiple staging areas for salt.
Knowing the challenges that are associated with any major snow event, the county also recognized the need for technology to efficiently plan road maintenance and allocate resources during inclement weather. County staff set out to find an asset management solution that would leverage the comprehensive GIS data already housed in ArcGIS.
They were looking for a solution that would address three key needs:
- A better system for documenting the progress of spreader trucks and plows—helping county leadership predict when specific roads would be cleared
- A tool for accurately planning road maintenance routes so the busiest and most crucial roads receive priority plowing and salting
- A process for informing residents when to expect local streets to be plowed, salted, and restored to a safe travel condition
Ultimately, the county paired ArcGIS with the Cartegraph operations management system. County staff seamlessly connected the road segments feature class and traffic counts event layer in ArcGIS to their asset management software.
GIS team members used the data and mapping tools to create a response plan that ensured arterial and major routes would be prioritized and cleared first. They also prioritized services on minor roads through segment slope and traffic volume analysis. Finally, they set up web maps to communicate live, up-to-the-minute information to residents.
"Our weather events are just so different," says Lynn Biggs, GIS manager for Cobb County DOT. "You never know if it's going to be snow, ice, floods, or downed trees. But whatever is happening, we need to respond efficiently and communicate effectively. These tools help us do that."
Also, the Cobb County DOT GIS team used ArcGIS Dashboards to create a proof-of-concept dashboard that pulls automated vehicle location (AVL) tracking information in through ArcGIS GeoEvent Server. The status of routes that were cleared is updated as tasks are opened and closed in Cartegraph. The team is also testing ArcGIS Velocity to stream AVL data in the future.
When in use during a snow event, the dots in the AVL feed would update to show whether a vehicle was stopped or moving. Meanwhile, the main map in the center of the dashboard will display the status of every snow route in the county, with the color changing based on when the surface was last treated.
Cobb County's inclement winter weather dashboard also includes gadgets with surface temperatures from Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), links to live camera feeds of road conditions, and real-time weather reports from Waze.
"During winter weather events, it's really important for our crews to know road temperature," explains Biggs. "GDOT monitors that, and we pull that data directly into our dashboard. Those gadgets are in the upper right corner."
She adds that the gadget in the lower left corner displays the work that the crews are doing, including which tasks are planned, completed, and in progress. This data is a live feed of real-time work tracking that is happening in Cartegraph.
Biggs says Cobb County DOT crew members appreciate having their mission-critical data sources in one place. During snow events, they intend to display this dashboard on the big screen in their war room, so they can closely monitor the situation.
"We did a trial run this winter when there was a chance of a snow event heading our way," notes Biggs. "Even though they weren't actively running snow routes that day, team [members] had it up so they could keep an eye on things in case the weather shifted, and they needed to do a full-blown response. We got some great feedback on it."
Much of the data on the internal dashboard is also available to residents via Cobb Commute, a public-facing web map with real-time road conditions. Anyone can see when their street or route to work has been treated or when they can expect it to be safe to drive on. This keeps everyone informed and safe.