Vtrans Deploys New Weapon in Clearing Snow

Published 12/17 2013 09:25PM

Updated 12/18 2013 08:48AM

Winter doesn’t officially start until Saturday, but the Vermont Agency of Transportation will tell you it’s already here.  

VTrans has already worked through several storms to clear state roads of snow. They say they continuously try to have the newest and most up-to-date equipment and technology to complete the task.

The tow plow, a machine capable of doing the work for two standard plows, has seen a couple Vermont winters.

VTrans worker Houston Lee drives one of the two tow plows that stay mainly on I-89 between Randolph and Richmond.

“Saves us time, there are fewer accidents, the lanes get clear quicker,” Lee said.

The goal is to accomplish that at the lowest cost.

At a news conference Tuesday, VTrans Secretary Brian Searles said it costs about $26 million to clear the roads during a typical winter. Last weekend's storm came in at a cost just under $1 million.

Searles says VTrans employees will work about 300,000 to clear more than 6,000 lane miles of roads this winter.

“This is serious business, it costs serious money,” Searles said.

To save money VTrans tries to measure these storms ahead of time to know what equipment they need to use for which storms. Before the tow plow comes out, about three inches of snow needs to fall.

“The ongoing challenge for us is to try and see the storm, predict it and pick the best tools to combat the storm that's coming in,” said VTrans District 5 Manager Dave Blackmore.

Whether that's salt, brine or any other mixture, many Vermonters say they're happy with the state’s efforts.

“The roads are clear relatively quickly and the surfaces are really good to drive on,” said Peter Maclaren.

“They're experimenting with different kinds of salt brine and things like that so for the most part they’re working real hard and I think we should appreciate their services,” Ken Page said.

“I was able to get everywhere I wanted to go no problem,” John Tomko said.

“I mean there's snow on the ground, there's snow on the road and you just have to take it easy.”

But Vermont does not have a bare roads policy, something that frustrates some Vermonters, but Governor Peter Shumlin says it isn't feasible.

“Your agency of transportation is working as hard as they know how with some of the best equipment imaginable to get the job done. But they can't do the impossible. They can't create bare roads during tough storms,” Shumlin said.

State officials are encouraging people to be safe when the roads are slick and dangerous. So far this year 66 people have died in crashes. Wearing your seatbelt and driving slowly can prevent many of those.

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