InTrans / Jul 28, 2021

Meet the Board Member: ADOT’s Kevin Duby

There’s a saying in most states about the variability of weather, but it may be truest of Arizona. If you don’t like the conditions, give it 5 minutes or about 200 miles.

That can make things challenging for the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) statewide road weather manager. However, Kevin Duby, who took over the role about a year ago, is up to the task.

“As far as challenges go, I love a good challenge. It is interesting to find the gaps and create the solutions,” Duby said.

It’s also something that Duby has been working toward for years, starting with an interest in becoming a meteorologist as a kid. Duby has been employed with Arizona DOT since 2002, holding positions from signing striping supervisor to district superintendent to emergency manager. Each position allowed him to further prepare him for his current role.

“I never knew how much went into road weather management, and all of the studies, networking, and creative thinking that goes along with the position to enhance the safety of our customers along the roadways,” Duby said. “There is always something new to learn and accomplish.”

He credits good mentors throughout his career, including the previous road weather manager Mark Trennepohl—who initially got Arizona involved with the Aurora Program—and his current manager Derek Arnson. Duby’s years of learning the unique weather patterns throughout the state have also helped.

The weather challenges are many and varied throughout the state, compounded further by travelers who are unaccustomed to the variety and/or adverse weather conditions.

“So, the day to day, each day is so broad, it’s amazing. It depends on the time of year,” Duby said. “Being new to position, I’m doing a lot of studying.”

The mountainous desert climate of the state’s southwest is prone to wildfires that leave burn scars that lead to flooding and mudslides during the rainy season that impact the roadways. The desert climate also leads to haboobs, intense dust storms that can impact visibility and lead to dust blowing across the roadways.

Arizona also includes one of the snowiest cities in the US—Flagstaff—that gets about 100 in. of snowfall in a year, often at higher, faster rates, such as up to 12 in. in a 24 hour period. On top of those numbers, the snowiest area of the state includes about a 200 mile stretch of I-40 where the elevation changes from 500 ft to 7,000 ft with grades as much as 6% to 7%.

To prepare for and alert passengers to potential adverse weather conditions, the state has invested in 20 road weather information systems (RWISs) including a dust detection system aimed at detecting haboobs on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. The other 19 RWISs are mostly positioned along the I-40 corridor to monitor for snow events.

The dust detection system is unique in that everything is automated, including the messages that activate in the event of a haboob, though dispatchers can still verify the condition. The other RWISs are moving toward automation, but the messaging is still manually entered by dispatchers in the traffic operations center.

“We continue to mitigate these challenges with early warnings, public notifications via social media and overhead messaging,” Duby said. “Our continued efforts in RWIS will be based on safety and becoming more efficient overall as an agency. I’m excited for the opportunity to continue expanding the RWIS network and enhancing and leveraging the technologies as they become available.”

Duby said being a part of the Aurora program has helped him learn on the job, by tapping into studies the program has published and networking with its other long-time members. Armed with that knowledge, he’s looking forward to continuing to expand Arizona’s RWIS network and to enhance the efficiencies in detection and alerts to the traveling public.

“As technology changes, so will our investments in the RWIS network. As a DOT, we need to be able to support these new functions and desires by our customers,” Duby said. “After all, it is about the safety of our customers and making sure their tax dollars are being spent effectively and efficiently.”