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ODOT crews in Valley get ready for snow job

CANFIELD — The Ohio Department of Transportation District 4, which encompasses Mahoning and Trumbull counties, joined the ranks of organizations preparing for winter with its annual equipment inspections this week.

“Winter is ODOT’s most important time of year because it keeps the public safe,” said Rick O’Neil, ODOT District 4 fleet equipment manager. “This inspection is probably one of the most important.”

Tuesday, ODOT’s 24 plows housed at the Canfield maintenance building underwent a 150-point check to make sure they are winter-ready. Trumbull County’s 29 plows in Cortland will receive the same treatment come Friday.

O’Neil said the inspection checklist looks similar to what one would see when taking a personal car to a mechanic for an inspection. For the fleet in Canfield, the process of checking all the trucks took about three hours, he said.

“It’s pretty common to find

minor things,” said O’Neil, pointing to

occasional burned-out light bulbs. He said that if a truck is found to have a major problem, it is “red tagged” and sent immediately for repairs.

District 4 covers Ashtabula, Trumbull, Mahoning, Portage, Summit and Stark counties, and is one of the first districts to prepare for the oncoming winter because of its proximity to the snow belt. Crews in District 4 last year drove 1,147,860 miles — the equivalent of more than 46 trips around the earth — in the name of clearing roads for motorists.

Justin Chesnic, ODOT spokeman, said new technology in ODOT plows, such as GPS AVL, is aimed at making the fleet more efficient.

“This is a tool that helps our managers see where trucks are at and how much material they’re putting down,” said Chesnic. Cameras mounted on the windshield of trucks also send photographs of road conditions, allowing managers to make decisions on where plows should focus their efforts during storms.

Chesnic said this year, ODOT will be using more salt brine — salt mixed with water — which is slightly cheaper and works as well as traditional salt. Like its solid counterpart, the slurry is effective down to a pavement temperature of about 20 degrees.

Chesnic said typically the worst of winter accidents occur in the first snow storm, when drivers haven’t re-adjusted to winter weather. Chesnic reminded drivers to slow down, for their own safety and for the sake of the plows, which typically travel 35 or 40 miles per hour during a snow event. Last winter, ODOT plows were struck 59 times.

This winter, motorists can find updates about road conditions and winter storms on ODOT district 4’s Facebook and the ODOT_Akron Twitter.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com