RWIS (Road Weather Information System) stations are relatively expensive fixed stations that include scientific-grade weather instrumentation, which have been installed over specific locations. RWIS stations combine technologies to collect, transmit and disseminate weather and road condition information.
In the mid-1990s, states began to deploy RWIS stations along their road networks, specifically in trouble spots or near elevated structures, such as bridges. The systems have been highly valuable for providing tactical observations of road weather variables prior to and during storm events, but are extremely expensive. The typical RWIS deployment ranges between $75,000-$125,000 depending on the configuration and location of deployment (not including maintenance and communications for the system).
Over the years, thousands of RWIS have been deployed but only hundreds are currently functional and can be a trusted data source. States are beginning to move away from million-dollar RWIS deployments and are turning to other solutions.
A Modular, Low Cost Alternative
As the Internet of Things (IoT) remote sensing wave has hit the market over the past several years, the time has arrived for much lower-cost and scalable fixed observation solutions. Commercial-grade instrumentation is available at a fraction of the cost of standard RWIS stations.
Agencies are deploying large numbers of IoT-based technologies, such as smart street lights and smart tolling. That infrastructure can be utilized for its power and communication capabilities to include low-cost atmospheric or road weather stations. These low-cost stations can range between $5K-20K depending on measurement capabilities. The low cost allows agencies and enterprises to deploy a much denser fixed station network, leading to better observational coverage.
These systems are also more modular than typical rigid RWIS stations, providing for even more value around other environmental use cases, including air quality, floods and high crosswinds. Investment by states and local governments in this new way of building out observation networks along roadways will not only save money within tightening budgets, but will provide a more robust snapshot of what is actually happening to the roads during impactful weather events. This higher resolution and more reliable data can then be passed to the cloud for inclusion in already-existing MDSS (Maintenance Decision Support System) and traveler information applications.