Eden Prairie is taking on winter weather

Eden Prairie Snow Plow
(File photo by Paul Groessel – Sun Newspapers)

Eden Prairie is enlisting new devices to handle Mother Nature’s winter mood swings.

The city’s Public Works Department is using instruments that will track weather and road conditions, send status alerts to city employees, and monitor its snow fleet using GPS.

Public Works Director Robert Ellis said tracking the 54 vehicles’ progress and location when removing snow should make the process more efficient, while testing a new road condition monitor on Viking Drive will allow crews to get a jump start on the process.

The Automatic Vehicle Locator system will allow better fleet management while vehicles are on the road – ensuring they are plowing the most troublesome areas, that resources aren’t being overused, and provide other efficiencies, according to City Manager Rick Getchow’s blog on the city website.

Ellis said in an interview that a few fleet vehicles have been experimenting with the tracking system for a couple years.

The system proved effective; so this summer the city purchased AVL equipment to outfit the rest of the fleet.

“We took some baby steps with AVL and it’s proving to be a good investment,” Ellis said.

The city also purchased a road condition monitoring system and created a small command center to manage and operate the two systems.

A road monitor – Road and Weather Information System – will hang off a pole on Viking Drive. The instrument monitors the road and sends phone and email alerts to city street staff when snow or ice treatment is needed. It was expected to land on Viking Drive in mid November, Ellis said.

The instrument uses a camera for a full visual, but it also monitors the road temperature and differentiates between ice, snow, sleet or rain.

Notifications will be sent at all hours of the day, including weekends and holidays to create faster response times, Ellis said.

These tools are intended to get a jump-start on winter road maintenance, Ellis said, in the city’s effort to clear the entire city at approximately the same time after a storm.

The cost of all three installations – the road monitoring system, vehicle monitoring system and command center – was approximately $64,500, Ellis said, $10,000 of which was paid for through a grant from the Minnesota Local Operational Research Assistance Program.

The grant covers the road monitoring system, which is different from the system the Minnesota Department of Transportation utilizes, so it and the research assistance group are interested in how it will work, Ellis said.

Ellis said he believes the system should pay off for the quicker, more efficient road clearing the city expects with these tools.

It allows residents and business employees to move through the city easier and will help prevent transportation slowdowns or shutdowns after a winter storm.