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Our Opinion: Road crews prepare for winter storms

Our Opinion: Road crews prepare for winter storms

News Tribune editorial

November 7th, 2013 in News

Preparation is a foundation for excellence.

Jefferson City, Cole County and Missouri crews have established a standard of excellence when it comes to clearing and maintaining roads during winter storms. Area motorists benefit from the result - safe and passable roads. What they may be unaware of is the preparation that leads to that result.

Preparations for winter weather began in early October for Jefferson City, according to Britt Smith, operations division director. He said "much of the equipment is used year round and our guys see the (snow) routes every day."

As potential winter storms approach, Smith said mechanics will concentrate on calibrating spreaders to apply the proper amount of salt and cinders. A winter storm in the city will occupy about 45 employees, including drivers to operate the 23 plows to clear the 250 miles of city roads. In addition, personnel will clear the downtown area, load spreaders, and maintain and repair equipment.

Smith said the city will have about 80 percent of its supplies going into the season and money budgeted to buy more, if needed. But, because winter precipitation is unpredictable, he added: "I never feel good about it."

Cole County's public works department also has been preparing for more than a month, according to Director Larry Benz. When the mechanics have time, they inspect, maintain and repair winter snow-removal equipment, which includes 25 trucks with plows and five graders.

Benz said during rainy weather, the drivers practice their designated snow-removal routes along the county's 470 miles of roadways, including 300 paved miles and 170 miles of gravel roads. He added the county is "sitting good" with a full complement of road supplies, including salt and cinders.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) invited the media to attend one of its snow-removal preparation days on Tuesday.

Mike Belt, the agency's maintenance superintendent for Cole and Boone counties, said more than 40 trucks are dispatched during winter storms, with about 100 people alternating 12-hour shifts. Although most of the drivers are veteran employees familiar with their routes, Belt said employees from the central office, materials lab or other offices may be recruited, as needed, due to a recent restructuring.

"On our major roads, we have 1,500 lane miles to clear," he said. "We don't just jump in a truck and hit the roads. We do have lots of calculations we have to go through, such as adjusting how much chemical we use depending on how bad the precipitation comes down."

As the season for snow and ice storms draws ever closer, area motorists may take comfort in knowing that area road crews are prepared and ready to respond.