The Missouri Transportation Department is gearing up for winter by staging a test run next Wednesday, November 7th to gauge its preparedness.
During the drill, MoDOT winter operations employees will respond to a simulated forecast of snow for the entire state. Emergency operations centers will activate, and maintenance employees will be deployed. Emergency communications systems will also be tested.
State Maintenance Engineer Becky Allmeroth said the exercise prepares workers for their responsibilities during snow and ice storms. “The annual drill helps to make sure we all know our roles during a winter storm, so we can do our jobs successfully,” said Allmeroth. “More than 3,500 MoDOT employees are involved in ensuring we clear roads and bridges as quickly as possible when winter weather hits.”
The state has 1,500 plows that’ll be traveling the 34,000 miles of road it’s charged to maintain next Wednesday. The drill will encompass everything from interstate highways to lettered county roads. Typically, during a snowstorm, the employees will each do 12-hour shifts to allow plows to be on the road 24 hours a day.
Drivers might notice an increased number of MoDOT vehicles on state routes during the drill. In rural areas, crews will deploy after 8 a.m. while in urban areas the exercise won’t begin until 9 a.m. The activity should be complete by 4 p.m.
The drill serves as an employee reminder to confirm proper equipment, plowing techniques and safety measures are used. Also, every piece of equipment, including trucks, graders, snow blowers and tractors will be inspected.
Allmeroth said the drill allows MoDOT’s newest employees the opportunity to drive a snowplow over their designated routes, so they are aware of obstacles and obstructions, such as curbs and raised islands, that might be hidden in snow or ice.
One piece of equipment which won’t be part of the drill is the tow plow, which will run through exercises in MoDOT yards.
A MoDOT employee invented the tow plow, which is increasingly being used in other states as well. In Missouri, tow plows are mostly deployed in the metro Kansas City and St. Louis areas where highways are often three to five lanes wide on one side although they are also located in locations such as Jefferson City.
MoDOT spends about $43 million each year to keep roads clear in the winter. In an average winter, MoDOT employees plow about 6 million miles of snow and ice, which is enough to go to the moon and back 13 times.
The department also claims to be well stocked to treat roads during snowstorms. Over the past five years, the state has used an average of 129,000 tons of salt per winter on roads along with 3 million gallons of salt brine and 631,000 gallons of beet juice. The chemical nature of beets actually works well in treating roads for snow, depending on the temperature. Last year the state used 145,000 tons of salt and 3.4 million gallons of salt brine.
For information on road conditions across the state, safe traveling tips, and other winter weather information visit MoDOT’s website.
Missouri voters will cast ballots next Tuesday on Proposition D, which would increase the state’s motor fuel tax by 2.5 cents for four years for a total of 10 cents in 2022. The American Automobile Association endorsed the measure Monday saying, “Missouri just can’t keep up with its mission to maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges with its present motor fuel tax of 17 cents because it has been 22 years since it was last raised.”