Managing stormwater runoff in cold climate through improved training

Focus Area

Water Quality/Wetlands


Natural Resources






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

As a major source of non-point source pollution, highway
runoff has adverse effects on the adjacent aquatic resources if no measures are
taken to remove the excessive contaminants accumulated from highway construction,
maintenance and use. The EPA now requires the state DOTs to meet Total Maximum
Daily Loads (TMDL) requirements and to restore the impaired waters.   Cold climate may complicate the selection
and performance of structural BMPs and present additional challenges. Frequent
salting and sanding activities may increase sediment loads and produce large
amounts of contaminants, and snowmelt and rain-on-snow events can produce large
runoff volumes. Thus far, there has been a great lack of information and training,
which hinders the appropriate selection, design, construction, and maintenance
of BMPs to manage highway runoff in cold regions.


This project will develop an interactive CD-based
decision support system (DSS) software “toolkit”, which will assist
transportation managers in identifying the appropriate BMPs to manage
highway-runoff in cold regions. The proposed research is by nature a
“proof-of-concept” project. The tasks entail: (1) Assessing initial user
requirements; (2) Defining highway runoff challenges, constraints, and
solutions; (3) Prototype design and development; (4) Product testing and
revisions; (5) Technology transfer.

Urgency and Payoff

Compliance with water quality regulations along with a
desire to minimize adverse environmental impacts have led to the need for
deploying best practices to better manage highway-runoff.  Cost savings and environmental benefits can
be realized through the improved highway management policies and activities, or
the proper use of best management practices (BMPs) designed to manage
highway-runoff.  The NCHRP report 521,
entitled “Identification of Research Needs Related to Highway Runoff
Management”, has revealed that US state departments of transportation (DOTs)
have the strongest needs and interests in the area of cost and performance of
stormwater control facilities or BMPs.


While trying to achieve high level of service in
maintaining a safe roadway, highway agencies should balance the public safety
goals with economic as well as environmental concerns.  Therefore, transportation professionals today
need diverse skills and training beyond the conventional territory of civil


further promote environmental stewardship, it would be beneficial to provide
easy-to-use, interactive training tools for transportation managers who have
not been trained in environmental engineering or road ecology but need to
understand the challenges and solutions pertinent to highway-runoff.  As such, they will be educated and better
informed to make decisions with significant economic and environmental
impacts.  Other people who can benefit
from such tools include DOT transportation planners and water quality
professionals – including engineers, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination
System (NPDES) specialists, and other program managers.

Suggested By

Xianming Shi Western Transportation Institute 406-994-6486

[email protected]