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University of Iowa News Release

Dec. 15, 2005

UI Engineer Shares Winter Road Expertise With Japanese Experts

As if dealing with Iowa's treacherous winter highways weren't enough, a University of Iowa engineering professor recently traveled to Japan where he shared his winter highway maintenance expertise with Japanese researchers.

Wilfrid Nixon, professor in the University of Iowa College of Engineering Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and faculty research engineer at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering, was invited by the Hokkaido Development Engineering Center in Sapporo, Japan to give a keynote address at their Dec. 4-10 Cold Regions Technology Conference. His topic, "Winter Road Maintenance and Management in the U.S. -- Current Practice and Future Prospects," has universal application, says Nixon, who also serves as a researcher in the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

"In both the U.S. and Japan, the primary driving forces behind winter maintenance are the safety and mobility of the traveling public," Nixon says. "Keeping road users safe in winter weather, and ensuring that goods and people can reach their destinations -- not to mention emergency service vehicles -- are key needs in both countries, and agencies charged with winter maintenance in both countries are actively striving to meet those needs with a mix of new technology and improved management techniques."

In addition to delivering a talk, Nixon met with senior management at the Hokkaido Center to discuss training of winter maintenance personnel and gave a seminar, "Risk Management in Winter Road Maintenance," at Hokkaido University. He noted that some aspects of winter highway maintenance are specific to Japan.

"While the driving forces behind winter maintenance in both Japan and the U.S. are the same, the approaches often differ because of climatic differences," Nixon says. "Sapporo, which I visited, gets about 20 feet of snow a year, compared with an average of about three feet in Iowa. Thus, in Hokkaido, they expend more effort on snow hauling and safe disposal while in Iowa, the Department of Transportation has placed a strong emphasis on the pro-active strategy of anti-icing. Both approaches are well-tailored to the specific needs of the area, and winter maintainers in both areas are keen to learn from each other."

Nixon, an internationally known authority on winter highway maintenance, has conducted research under the Strategic Highway Research Program, and has served on the AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) Lead States Team for Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS) and Anti-Icing. Registered as a professional engineer in Iowa, he has performed work for a number of State Departments of Transportation relating to winter maintenance and RWIS and is the author of more than 80 articles, papers and reports. He has developed educational and technology transfer tools in the field of winter maintenance and has offered a Web-based graduate course in winter maintenance, attracting students from as far away as Sweden.

His current research interests include snowy ice removal from roads, fatigue of ice as a structural material, modeling ice structure interaction, and the compressive strength of brittle materials. In addition, he has examined how information flows affect winter maintenance decision-making, and how such flows can be improved. He currently serves as chair of the winter maintenance committee of the Transportation Research Board, a branch of the National Research Council (NRC). He also serves as vice president of the Iowa Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,