ODOT tests new snow-fighting tool to clear highways twice as fast

By Mark Shuller - Email

ASHTABULA COUNTY (FOX19) - To keep roadways and bridges safe and passable in one of the state's most winter-battered counties, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will be testing a new type of snowplow this winter that will allow crews to clear ice and snow twice as fast.

In preparation for the 2010-2011 winter season, ODOT crews in Ashtabula County have been training to use a special snow plow equipped with a tow plow - a secondary 26-foot blade attached to the side of a trailer.

When the snowplow is in motion, the attached tow-plow trailer swings to the right or left and across the next lane. The trailer's blade is then dropped allowing one truck to clear two parallel lanes, a job which would take two trucks with one plow each.

A full 22 feet of pavement can be cleared on each pass and both lanes of traffic can be treated with ice-melting material. ODOT's tow plow will hold up to ten tons of salt and 280 gallons of salt brine or calcium.

ODOT's safety experts chose to test the tow plow in Ashtabula County, where snowfall averages between 140 and 150 inches each winter. ODOT's Ashtabula County crews will 'test drive' the tow plow on Interstate 90 and State Route 11 this season, giving ODOT an opportunity to experiment with this impressive equipment before deciding on statewide use.

The tow plow is on loan to ODOT from Viking Cives Ltd. of Ontario, Canada. Tow plows vary in price, ranging from $65,000 to $90,000.

Tow plows similar to the type being used by ODOT were first utilized by the Missouri Department of Transportation. At least ten states are using this new technology.

This test of the tow plow adds to ODOT's Smart Salt Strategy, developed to help the state be more efficient with its staffing and salt use while ensuring continued safe and passable conditions on Ohio's roadways.

This Smart Salt Strategy includes the use of infrared temperature sensors on snowplows which allow crews to see the exact surface temperature of the roadways and apply materials only where needed; calibrated salt spreaders, found on every ODOT snowplow, to allow crews to adjust the application of ice-melting materials; and road-gripping additives (sand or grit) mixed with salt and brine to provide more traction for vehicles, especially on less-travelled roadways.

During the 2009-2010 winter, ODOT used 665,244 tons of salt and invested $78 million to control ice and snow on the state highway system, where weather-related crashes were at the lowest level in the past five years with 33,036 crashes.

Beyond the plows and salt this winter season, ODOT encourages drivers to be prepared. The first snow storm usually seems to be the worst because many motorists forget the winter driving skills they developed last year. ODOT's best advice: in Ice and Snow… Take it Slow.