PEMBERTON, Minn. (KEYC) — All over southern Minnesota, you might see a crew next to state highways consisting of a professor and a couple of students from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
They are studying the roads for techniques of salting and plowing that balance environmental safety with roadway safety in difficult conditions.
“What we’re finding is Minnesota’s DOT (Department of Transportation) is pretty good at taking care of the roads," explained Stephen Druschel, professor of civil engineering. "Mostly, it’s this balancing act between clearing them quicker, everyone would like that as a driver, but doing so would harm the environment too much. Where is that balance line?”
At each location, these future engineers focus on something different, whether that be ice fog, blow ice, drifting snow, black ice or anything else that may cause treacherous conditions for drivers.
Drifting snow is a big problem for snowplow crews in many of the rural communities across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
To get a better understanding of the problem, the team uses on-site weather data, roadway photographs, MnDOT records and infrared temperature measurements.
“This is a Flier, one of the instruments we use. We use it to measure roadway temperature. As you can see here, you take a picture of it and it gives the thermal readings and then also gives a regular picture of the roadway,” junior engineering student Emily Bollendorf said.