DOT Gears Up For Winter Season

In his 27 years of hitting the roads, Edward Nelson has had his share of interesting experiences.
Of course, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to climb into the cab of his snow plow truck and hear a little about them.

"Last year, at Christmas, I made an ambulance run to Minot in the blizzard. Which should be a normal two hour trip on a normal day, was a four trip to get from here to Minot. It was touch and go a few times. I couldn't see and you just kind of went by the feel and hoped like heck everything stayed. Mother Nature don't know the difference between a holiday or not, so it snows and if something happens, you gotta go," says Nelson. 

"When I started, it was just a single-axle truck. And with one-way plows, and now we're running into big tandems with wings and underbodies and reversibles," he says. 

The newest equipment used by the DOT in snow plowing operations are the tow plows. Each of the eight districts has four, one of which is bi-directional, meaning it can move both to the right and left. 

The tow plows, added several years ago, are able to cover more ground-
twenty four feet of roadway instead of only about 12 feet just using the front plow.

"It's made a huge difference. Especially with our new highway going south toward Watford City. Where that roadway, people probably don't realize, is 80 feet wide from grass line to grass line with a 20 foot median in the middle," says Rick Sigvaldsen, maintenance superintendent for the NDDOT Williston District. 

And as snow plow operators work to clear the roads, they ask the public to steer clear of the trucks.
A good rule of thumb is to stay three road stripes away in distance so that you don't "crowd the plow'. 

"If they could just give our operators room. If you see snow fog or see something up there, please don't drive into it. Last year we had two trucks rear-ended," says Sigvaldsen.

Instead, remain patient, wait for the snowplow to pull over, and avoid using cruise control on icy roadways. Taking proper precautions will help make for a safer and smoother ride.

The last winter season, more than $24 million was spent on snow and ice control costs. That was up from the five-year average of about $20 million. 

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