Snow removal in Ohio: A matter of pride
Snow removal is serious business in the Buckeye State. It is not just a desired ideal; effective snow removal has become a statewide mission. According to Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials, the agency’s mission is to be second to none in snow and ice removal. And through a smart combination of technology, equipment and reliance on those who travel Ohio’s highways and byways the most, ODOT works each winter to make that mission successful.
“Because of the amount of snow we receive each year in Ohio — it can range from 29 to 100 inches or more — we are always looking for better ways to help our drivers in severe conditions,” explains Terry Kosmata, ODOT’s District 12 equipment fleet manager, whose district consists of Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties. “If ODOT isn’t helping to develop the cutting-edge snow removal technology, we will become one of the first to test it out.”
ODOT service stations throughout the state use computer-tracking satellite systems to determine, almost to the minute, when storms will strike. Consequently, the department’s crews are out in full force before the storm hits, spreading salt from their trucks’ spinners and graders.
ODOT’s fleet — 1,600 vehicles statewide — is outfitted with pavement sensors. During storms, information about pavement temperature and condition is relayed from the sensors to the drivers. The information helps the agency determine how to proceed.
“Granulated salt will work fine, if the temperature is at 20 degrees,” Kosmata says. “However, the mixture won’t work below that temperature, so, by using the pavement sensors, the driver can determine if we need to apply a calcium chloride (liquid salt) mixture to the roads, continue with our granulated salt mixture, or even just plow the road without liquids if the temperature is rising.” Computers located on the trucks also determine the application rate and liquid volume needed, based on how fast the truck is traveling.
Besides the pavement sensors, ODOT has more than 700 “snow and ice spotters,” throughout the state. The spotters are residents within each county in Ohio who are charged with rating the agency’s snow and ice removal program. (Spotters consist of school bus drivers, postal employees, delivery drivers, emergency medical personnel and highway patrol troopers.)
They rate ODOT on the speed of snow and ice cleaning on the scale of one (poor) to 10 (excellent). Kosmata’s district received a 100 percent approval rating last winter. “Often, we’d be finished plowing outside the city, so we’d pitch in and help Cleveland with its snow removal efforts,” Kosmata says.
Kosmata attributes his district’s success to the state spotters, snow removal technology and trucks that are specified for the unique needs of light or heavy snow plowing. “About 90 percent of ODOT’s trucks are International brand trucks, the rest are Ford and General Motors,” says Tim Wald, equipment manager for the state. ODOT purchases truck components through bids and has the chassis, body and paint work performed by inmates at the Ohio Penal Industries in Chillicothe.
“We’ve worked with truck manufacturers to provide heated, power mirrors, a front and side plow for quicker plowing, a fiberglass tilt-end that contains a small access panel so our drivers can check their fluid levels daily and a wiring system that won’t corrode, which is important when you’re using liquids,” Kosmata says.
The non-stop service extends to the 2,000 plus drivers on the road. ODOT service stations are open 24 hours a day, so, in case of a problem, a mechanic will be on the other end of the radio to offer the driver immediate assistance.
Annually, ODOT averages about $24 million in costs and distributes more than 500,000 tons of salt statewide for snow and ice efforts. Overall, ODOT maintains more than 48,000 lane miles of highway, in addition to about 15,000 bridges.
Each October, the 12 districts in ODOT conduct dry run inspections of equipment and provide annual refresher courses for plow operators.
Before the first snowflake falls, ODOT is working to ensure its snow and ice removal success. For more information about ODOT, visit http://www.dot.state.oh.us