CONTACT: GARY GALLUZZO
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0009; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Nov. 15, 2000
UI engineer finds South American link in winter highway maintenance
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- South America is not what most Iowans envision when driving
on icy highways.
But that's exactly the part of the world that comes to mind for Wilfrid
Nixon, chair of the winter maintenance committee of the Transportation Research
Board, a branch of the National Research Council (NRC).
That's because Nixon, a University of Iowa civil and environmental engineering
professor, spent this past summer in the Southern Hemisphere examining snow
and ice removal methods used in the Andes Mountains as part of a research
trip jointly funded by the United States and Argentina. The trip also included
his making suggestions for improvement, such as the use of pre-moistened salt
chemicals designed to adhere to pavement better than conventional salt and
sand mixtures. Nixon says that the trip showed that international cooperation
in sharing knowledge of winter highway maintenance is growing.
"The mountain passes between Chile and Argentina are critical to the
growth of tourism and trade between countries in that region," he says.
"The main, and only fully paved, pass between Chile and Argentina --
the Paso Christo Redentor in the province of Mendoza, which connects the cities
of Mendoza, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile -- was closed for more than two
weeks this past winter. The Vialidad Nacional, Argentina's national highway
agency, was seeking ideas to allow them to work more effectively and efficiently
on their winter maintenance."
"I, and my fellow travelling partner, Rick Nelson of the Nevada Department
of Transportation, provided some of that help and guidance," says Nixon.
"The mountain passes of Argentina get heavy snow falls of up to six feet
or more in a storm and these may be compounded by drifting snow and by avalanches.
Lack of visibility on these roads due to blowing snow can make travel extremely
hazardous. They also experience problems with compacted snow and ice forming
on the road -- this sort of snow and ice is extremely difficult to remove
from the highway surface."
The key to improving winter highway maintenance in Iowa and abroad lies
in increasing international cooperation, says Nixon, who last year ran a successful
international winter highway maintenance class over the Internet.
"The folks who do the work in the Andes Mountains are extremely dedicated
people, who work very hard in what could generously be described as "trying"
conditions. A few straightforward steps would help their efforts enormously,
and we hope to be able to work with them to bring these needed changes about.
A key finding of the trip to date has been the need to ensure that people
are effectively linked with colleagues around the world who face similar problems.
A problem is much easier to handle, if you know others face the same difficulty
and can fix it," he says.