LEWISTON — For many during the winter, a balmy 33 degrees after a snowfall and forecasts predicting an overnight drop in temperatures sets off alarms as the evening nears. Worry sets in as the day’s snowmelt on the roads threatens to ice up, with slick pavement ahead, and your high school skates are piled under boxes in the attic.

A Frost Solutions monitoring unit helps Lewiston Public Works gauge the type of road treatments it needs during winter. Lewiston Public Works

Reggie Poussard, manager of the Public Works highway division, said those concerns can be put at ease as Public Works employs new methods of winter road maintenance and preparation. The department started using a Road Weather Information System this winter from Illinois company Frost Solutions. The system helps to better gauge the conditions of roads and actual snowfall in real time, and forecasts near-future outlooks. The information is more accurate to local weather than traditional forecasting and plays a pivotal role when roads are treated, Poussard said.

“As a snow fighter, pavement temperature is a key piece of information to treat roads properly,” he said. “The colder the pavement temperature, the more salt that’s needed to melt snow and ice. Having that information allows us to use the right amount of salt and not put (down) any more than we need to.”

Lewiston has two Road Weather Information System units, which feed data via mobile and desktop apps. One is positioned on the east side of the city and another on the south side, he said. The units are battery powered with solar panels, and use cellphone towers to relay predictions based on data it compounds every few seconds.

The information the system provides more than justifies the cost of the units at about $2,500 each, Poussard said. Every truck carries about $770 worth of salt brine, so if 10 trucks are on the road and reports come back showing roads won’t need treatment for several hours, the cost savings already pay for the units in a single outing, he said.

Frost Solutions also considers requests for changes or alterations in its app and usually implements them within a day. As the company fine-tunes its app to what consumers need, the results show on the road, he said.


“Sometimes we actually will get two different weather patterns in Lewiston,” Poussard said. “It could be snowing in one half of town and not on the other, so it allows us to kind of see what the forecasts are pointing to in each section, and we could make adjustments as needed.”

While the technology isn’t new, Poussard said only one other city in Maine uses the system, Bath, and the Maine Department of Transportation has a couple units on state roads.

According to Frost Solutions, their systems are being used in 35 states and seven Canadian provinces. Poussard said the system is becoming popular particularly with private contractors in Midwestern states.

Road Weather Information System is a far cry from usual methods, he said, which interpret the difference between various forecasts and use readings from truck-mounted temperature gauges. Applying road treatments based on forecasts that don’t play out often means applying plenty of salt, sand and other measures in an abundance of caution. Being able to apply only what is needed also improves maintenance tasks after winter is over, affecting road cleanup, which can often extend into August and can make roadwork more cumbersome.

“Going back to where we were before, I would feel like I was in the dark (with) what I had to look at, and base decisions on,” Poussard said.

Lewiston plow truck driver Tim Albert loads a 10-wheeler with salt brine before heading out on his route. Lewiston Public Works photo

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