Winter Maintenance and Effects Program

Program Overview

The WTI Winter Maintenance and Effects (WME) Program aims to research and mitigate winter and corrosion effects on transportation systems through innovation and multi-disciplinary partnerships. To this end, we serve as a bridge between industry and academia and conduct problem-driven research, with emphases on the development and evaluation of materials, technologies and systems to support winter maintenance best practices and decision making for sustainable transportation systems.

Team Culture

The WTI WME program is committed to maintaining a dynamic, enjoyable team environment that listens to end-user needs, fosters growth of team members, encourages innovative thinking, and stimulates inter-disciplinary, win-win partnerships, with the ultimate goal of effecting positive changes to society and industry. Currently our team features a diverse combination of expertise in civil engineering, corrosion science, electrochemistry, polymer chemistry, materials science and engineering, environmental science, toxicology, numerical modeling, industrial engineering, and transportation engineering.

Why Winter Maintenance Research Is Important

In the northern United States and Canada, snow and ice control operations are essential to ensure the safety, mobility and productivity of winter highways, where the driving conditions are often worsened by inclement weather. The United States alone spends $2.3 billion annually to keep roads clear of snow and ice. Depending on the road weather scenarios, resources available and local rules of practice, departments of transportation (DOTs) use a combination of tools for winter road maintenance and engage in activities that include anti-icing, deicing, sanding and mechanical removal. As the detrimental environmental impacts of abrasives are generally greater than those of chemicals, DOTs have begun to minimize the use of abrasives. Currently, the United States applies approximately 20 million tons of salts each year for winter road maintenance. The increased use of chemicals, however, has raised growing concerns over their effects on motor vehicles, the transportation infrastructure, and the environment.

Maintenance agencies are continually challenged to provide a high level of service (LOS) and improve safety and mobility in a cost-effective manner while minimizing corrosion and other adverse effects to the environment. To this end, it is desirable to use the most recent advances in the application of anti-icing and deicing materials, winter maintenance equipment and sensor technologies, and road weather information systems (RWIS) as well as other decision support systems. Such best practices are expected to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of winter operations, to optimize material usage, and to reduce associated annual spending and corrosion and environmental impacts.

In the United States, billions of dollars have been spent to provide corrosion protection for concrete structures, including highway bridges exposed to marine environments and deicing salts. The remediation of concrete bridges, undertaken as a direct result of chloride-induced corrosion of the reinforcing steel, would cost U.S. highway departments $5 billion per year. Corrosion is also a great concern for the durability of pipelines, culverts, and metal-reinforced geotechnical systems. For the transportation infrastructure in cold climates, its durability is further complicated by freeze-thaw cycling. It is in the national interest to achieve better understanding of corrosion and methods for its control, thus reducing the astronomical costs and safety risks associated with corrosion.

Furthermore, deicing and anti-icing chemicals have been reported to react with major pavement materials and deteriorate the integrity of airport and highway pavements. Current understanding of deicer impact on pavements, both Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) and Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA), is mostly based on macro-level observations and testing of properties, whereas mechanisms underlying the critical physical and chemical interactions are poorly understood. Therefore, in-depth research utilizing electrochemical, surface analytical, modeling, and other advanced techniques is needed in order to advance the knowledge base for better design, construction and maintenance of pavement materials and to extend their service life in a cost-effective manner.

The crux is to strike the right balance in meeting multiple goals of maintenance agencies, including safety, mobility, environmental stewardship, infrastructure preservation, and economics. A considerable amount of research is still needed in order to fill the knowledge gaps and establish a scientifically robust, defensible decision-making process for sustainable winter maintenance.

About Us

In 2005, the Western Transportation Institute launched Winter Maintenance and Effects as a Program Area as an effort to reorganize our existing research pertinent to weather and winter mobility, and to reflect our growing interest and expertise in the research fields of corrosion and sustainable infrastructure. We currently have six staff researchers and three affiliated faculty members working with students to address a variety of cross-cutting, multi-disciplinary issues faced by today's transportation industry, particularly those related to sustainable maintenance activities and materials integrity in cold climates. Contact us to find out how to put this multi-disciplinary group to work for you and fast-track your needs for problem-driven, solution-oriented research.

WME Researchers

Xianming Shi, Ph.D., P.E., offers unique expertise and experience for transportation research, with his interdisciplinary background and diverse skills in corrosion and material sciences, chemistry, biofilm research, intelligent transportation systems, and civil engineering. He has been leading the WME Program since 2005 and has served as the founding director of the Corrosion and Sustainable Infrastructure Laboratory (CSIL) since 2004. Dr. Shi is an Associate Research Professor with the Civil Engineering Department at Montana State University and a Specially Invited Professor for the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Tianjin University, China. He is an active member of four Transportation Research Board (TRB) committees, including corrosion, concrete science, polymer concretes/adhesives/sealers, and winter maintenance, under the U.S. National Academies. He is also an active member of the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) International, of the American Concrete Institute (ACI), and of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Dr. Shi has been serving as the Principal Investigator (PI) on 27 research projects and Co-PI on five research projects funded by the U.S. DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), Pacific Northwest Snowfighters Association (PNSA), Clear Roads Pooled Fund, MDSS Pooled Fund, Aurora Consortium, numerous state departments of transportation, and the private sector, with a budget totaling $4.7 million. He has more than 14 years of experience in conducting engineering and science research, with a demonstrated publication record. Dr. Shi holds his Ph.D. in Chemistry (Institute of Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences), one M.Sc. in Applied Chemistry with focus on corrosion electrochemistry (Tianjin University) and a second M.Sc. in Industrial & Management Engineering (Montana State University), and a B.Sc. in Corrosion & Protection (Beijing Institute of Chemical Technology). More details at: www.coe.montana.edu/me/faculty/Shi/

Laura Fay, M.Sc., is a Research Scientist with six years of laboratory and field research experience, specializing in environmental sciences. During this time she has developed skills in numerous types of field studies, including water quality monitoring, stream inventory studies, fish surveys, stream-bank stability studies, and road decommissioning studies. In addition, she has experience conducting laboratory experiments using analytical equipment pertinent to mercury research. She also has experience facilitating partnerships among public and private agencies, and the general public on a variety of environmental issues. Her current research focus at WTI includes examining the environmental implications of anti-icing and deicing compounds on roadways in the United States, including the fate and transport of deicers and developing best practices in winter highway maintenance. Mrs. Fay is also participating in cost-benefit analyses pertinent to winter maintenance and road weather management, and supervising graduate and undergraduate research assistants. Mrs. Fay holds a M.Sc. in Environmental Science and Health from the University of Nevada, and a B.Sc. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Yajun Liu, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist specialized in thermo-chemistry and diffusion-related experiments and numerical modeling. He has 14 years of experience in conducting engineering and science research, with a demonstrated publications record and extensive project experience. Dr. Liu’s current research focus at WTI includes finite element method modeling, molecular dynamics modeling, migration of various species in concrete and soil, and nano-scale/micro-scale understanding of concrete. Dr. Liu holds his Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Zhengxian Yang, M.Sc. is a Research Scientist specialized in polymer chemistry and his current research focus at WTII includes self-healing materials, transport properties of concrete, and the use of nanotechnology to enable expanded use of industrial byproducts in cement-based materials.

WME Affiliated Faculty

Dr. Ed Adams, Civil Engineering Department, Professor

Dr. Ladean McKittrick, Civil Engineering Department, Associate Research Professor

WME Students

WME Alumni

Contact: , Ph.D., P.E., Program Manager, WTI, Associate Research Professor, Civil Engineering, 406-994-6486