With winter looming, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is gearing up for the first snowfall. MoDOT is ready for large accumulations thanks to new wider plows, advanced salt application training and snow removal equipment that the agency is the first in the world to use.
&#8220Plowing snow is a very big challenge and consumes a lot of time, fuel and other resources,” MoDOT State Maintenance Engineer Jim Carney said. &#8220With our new larger plows, our new TowPlows and additional salt application training, we can save time and resources while making roadways safer than ever before.”
A TowPlowe is a trailer snowplow that is pulled by MoDOT’s standard snowplow trucks. A TowPlowe behind a snowplow truck can now clear a 30-foot swath through the snow, which means it can clear two-and-a-half lanes of pavement. The wide plow was invented and developed by Robert Lannert, a technical support engineer at MoDOT’s Central Office. Each plow costs about $35,000.
The TowPlowe will be used in gang-plow operations, a special technique used only on multi-lane highways such as I-270, I-70 and I-64. In gang-plowing of three or more lanes, trucks typically line up diagonally across the highway and push the snow from the inside lane to the next until the snow is plowed to the shoulder.
Since the TowPlowe does the work of three trucks, each one frees two trucks to work on other roadways. That also means motorists will be able to drive on cleaner roads more quickly after a snowstorm.
&#8220We call this one-pass clearing, which not only reduces the amount of time to plow the routes but reduces the chances of weather-related crashes as well,” Carney said. &#8220We get to provide better service without adding additional staff.”
MoDOT has approximately 1,800 snowplows and about 200 of which are wide plows. The department plans to buy additional wide plows as equipment is replaced.
Comprehensive training on applying salt to roadways is another way MoDOT will make snow removal more efficient while saving money.
In an average year, MoDOT uses 246,000 tons of salt. Crews recently were trained to use a salt-application device that will reduce salt use. A computer in the snowplow trucks control salt application and makes the snowplow driver’s job easier and safer. This technology can reduce the amount of salt used and save the department up to $2 million a year on salt supplies, officials believe.
MoDOT spends an average of $31 million a year on snow removal including labor, materials and equipment. More than 3,000 MoDOT maintenance workers and 1,800 snow removal vehicles are available for duty anytime day or night. Department facilities are stocked with snow removal materials by Nov. 1 each year.
&#8220We have no way of knowing if we will see a lot of snow this winter,” Carney said. &#8220No matter what the weather, we work hard to keep roadways clear for motorists.”
Carney reminds motorists to stay behind the plows and give the trucks plenty of room to clear the road.
&#8220The quicker we can plow, the quicker the roads get cleared for travel,” he explained.
During inclement weather, roads with the highest traffic volumes are treated and cleared first to help the greatest number of motorists. These include interstate highways and other major routes which are continuously plowed and treated throughout a snowstorm.
The most heavily traveled sections of other routes are the next priority. Although they are plowed until they are open to traffic, these routes are not continuously treated with salt. Crews apply salt in places where snow and ice conditions may make driving more difficult. These areas include steep hills, sharp curves, intersections, bridges and railroad crossings.
Routes with lower volume of traffic are the next priority.
Ronald Miller, general services manager for the Southeast Missouri District, said that MoDOT has 50 snowplows available for the district’s 14 counties. Of the plows, 15 are 40 feet wide.
&#8220These plows will be for more high volume roads but we will also clear lower volume roads,” Miller said. &#8220The main thing is to keep traffic flowing safer and quicker.”
For more information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips and a diagram on driveway clearing techniques, visit www.modot.org or call 888-ASK MODOT. Recorded road condition information is available at 1-800-222-6400.