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Op Ed: Save $65,000 from the Capital Projects Fund Budget by Using Existing Weather/Observation Services

Tue March 05 2013 9:56 am
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“Yes, you can tell what’s going on by looking outside, but we have 200 miles of streets, and the village is 8 miles long … This is another tool in our ongoing effort to perform more efficient snow and ice control and keep the streets as safe as we can,” said Mike Reynolds, Village of Arlington Heights Public Works Superintendent of Maintenance.

The Arlington Heights village board decided to waste $65,000 last night on a new weather information system with a contract from Traffic Control Corp. of Woodridge to deploy a Road Weather Information System (RWIS). The RWIS is designated to increase roadway safety in Arlington Heights. Two towers with weather observation equipment and roadway sensors (or equipment in existing cabinets) will be placed in the village — one at the north end of town at Windsor and Valley Road; and one at the south end of town at White Oak Street and Wilke Road.

“It really is just another tool in our ongoing efforts to control and keep streets safe … [it will] able to tell if pavement is wet, dry or icy,” said Village Manager Bill Dixon.

Especially with the current economic conditions, the decision to purchase RWIS for Arlington Heights is unnecessary and not as effective as a combination of existing, free resources. There are many ways to tell if the pavement is wet, dry or icy in Arlington Heights than with the installation of two weather towers or equipment in an urban setting. Many existing methods or available methods that could be implemented are more reliable, more accurate and as mentioned above — free.

RWIS is a great resource for countywide or statewide applications in locations where observers are not frequently traveling (an infrequently traveled mountain pass, a rural bridge, etc.). For additional examples, a rural road in Illinois or Iowa where a Sheriff or State Trooper might not pass for hours at a time, is a good place to deploy RWIS. Also RWIS, in a countywide application, where county resources are not necessarily traveling, might be a good reason for deployment. RWIS points are also highly useful on bridges where unexpected icing may occur ahead of other areas. Neither of the chosen locations for RWIS in Arlington Heights are at areas where there is a history of early icing.

Two RWIS observation posts or the proposed four RWIS weather towers are not going to gain any advantage over the combination of existing and available resources listed below.

Arlington Heights Snow Plowing
Diligent watchful snow command staff in Arlington Heights already use their eyes and brains to understand a multitude of resources for the proper response to Winter weather. The Arlington Heights Public Works Department, especially with their snow removal street crews, is probably one of the most well-run crews in town. It hardly needs improvement. De-icing treatment is almost always placed ahead of winter weather, so icing is prevented before it starts and snow accumulation is initially melted as it hits the ground. Streets are then cleared quickly when accumulation does occur.

Police as Weather Observers
Our most reliable reporters of traffic conditions are police officers from the Arlington Heights Police Department. The situational awareness of police officers at multiple points across the village far exceeds any automated device located in two stationary points in the village. Police are already on the streets, and are experts at traffic conditions, and are available 24-hours per day. On their own initiative, they already report when intersections need winter road treatment — frequently reporting when an intersection is an “ice rink.” Their observations aren’t limited to two positions in town. They can report any intersection with greater understanding of the slickness of an intersection in Arlington Heights compared to a two-point RWIS system. For example, an RWIS tower at Windsor Road and Valley won’t give any specific information about iced up conditions at Palatine Road and Kennicott Avenue. If necessary, an organized and simplified winter observation plan could be drawn up that police could follow, and report to the 9-1-1 center, which would relay the information to snow command staff.

If it is important to get visibility readings, police could be trained in how to report visibility — perhaps by observing a marker across Lake Arlington or across the golf course near Wilke Road and White Oak Street. If wind speed and direction observations are important, with a little training, there are much cheaper ways to have police report wind direction and wind speed using cheaper equipment.

Arlington Heights snow command staff should also monitor the police dispatch channel in the background during winter weather conditions, so they can hear in real time when police are reporting adverse traffic conditions.

Existing Government RWIS
There is already an existing RWIS on the Dundee Road bridge over Route 53 on the north side of the bridge. Is there any way Arlington Heights could connect to the data available from that particular RWIS? Was this even investigated?

Local Reporting Weather Stations
There are already several weather stations reporting weather conditions hyperlocally in Arlington Heights. If any are out of service, there are always others nearby that are up and running.

Here is a sample list of Hyperlocal weather stations in our area …

Arlington Heights Historical District, Arlington Heights, IL — Current Conditions

Palatine – 2 Blks N of Arlington Park Racecourse, Palatine

PIONEER PARK, Arlington Heights, IL — Current Conditions

SCARSDALE, Arlington Heights, IL — Current Conditions

Near BG High School., Buffalo Grove

Traffic/Weather Camera at Lake Cook Road and Arlington Heights Road as observed Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 8:20 a.m. The intersection has views looking North, West, East and South. At 8:20 a.m., the intersection showed no snow accumulation, and what appears to be wet pavement.

Weather/Traffic Cameras
There are a multitude of cameras available in Arlington Heights, on Route 53, on Interstate 90, on Interstate 290, on Interstate 94, and multiple points in Lake County (as close as Arlington Heights Road and Lake Cook Road, Buffalo Grove Road at Thompson Boulevard, IL 21 at Lake Cook Road, IL 53 at Lake Cook Road, IL 83 at Arlington Heights Road, Lake Cook and Quentin Road, US 12 at Lake Cook Road).

A quick look at any one of the cameras available at points south, west, north and east of Arlington Heights could give “Snow Command” advanced warning that it is about to snow in Arlington Heights. In advance of an approaching storm or lake snow event (and in combination with knowledge from weather forecasts and nowcasts), cameras outside of Arlington Heights are more valuable to snow removal crews than cameras within Arlington Heights.

For current snow status within Arlington Heights, there are already cameras at the downtown Metra station, overhead at Northwest Highway and Arlington Heights Road, at North School Park and at other locations.

Weather Radar
There are numerous sources of radar available from the National Weather Service,, The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, Intellicast, all major media television stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, WGN) and

With a simple web page design with links to all of these resources (with the closest and most important resources organized for a quick look), “Arlington Heights Snow Command” could quickly gather important weather information with a complete understanding of conditions in Arlington Heights and surrounding communities without any additional expense to Arlington Heights taxpayers.

Here’s how Village Board Members voted on Roll Call …
Mayor Arlene Mulder — absent
Trustee Thomas W. Hayes — Yes
Trustee Carol J. Blackwood — Yes
Trustee Norman Breyer — absent
Trustee Joseph C. Farwell — Yes
Trustee Thomas Glasgow — Yes
Trustee John Scaletta — absent
Trustee Mike Sidor — Yes

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CLEAR SKIES?  Weather Data for Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

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