New Web-based Ice Road Design Software

July 25, 2013 • Filed under: News — J Harper

Television mystifies many with the lore of Alaska’s ice roads, and now an innovative INE project puts ice-road design tools into the hands of everyday Alaskans. Now available online, the recently completed North Slope Decision Support System (NSDSS) lets public users and professionals alike access ice road design data based on the latest hydrological and environmental information.

Working under a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Texas A&M University, Atkins global infrastructure consultants, and Algoloma developed the new web-based tool for planning water resource use associated with ice roads. Bill Schnabel, director of INE’s Water and Environmental Research Center (WERC), and WERC assistant research professor Chris Arp led UAF’s involvement in the project.


Pictured above: The NSDSS minimizes road length, construction time and costs, water use, and impacts to wildlife, tundra, and culturally significant areas.

The system’s primary goal is to provide decision making data for designing and permitting optimized ice road alignments on the North Slope. The system helps designers minimize road length, construction time and costs, water use, and potential impacts to wildlife, sensitive tundra, and culturally significant areas. Helping planners consolidate information, the NSDSS provides:

  • Route selection optimization module,
  • Modeling of lake bathymetry and water quality,
  • Predictive modeling functions that illustrate construction impacts,
  • Function for publishing modeling results to a database, and
  • Access to meteorological data and modeling results.

It lets users visually map North Slope water resources including tundra lakes to identify potential water supplies. It also illustrates sensitive wildlife habitat and historically or environmentally significant areas designers wish to avoid. Users can create and analyze standard predictive tools such as General Circulation Models (GCMs), lake water budget models, and lake dissolved oxygen models. It also provides a permitting assessment tool, alerting planners which permitting agencies must review a permit for a specific road route. 

The NSDSS is now available to the public online at this link.

In addition, the project website has multiple resources on ice road planning including past research articles, conference presentations, case studies, technology, and materials from a series of workshops extending back to 2009.