Wing plows clear wider swath; drivers urged to drive carefully

New wing plows will be added to ITD's fleet of snow removal equipment in southwest Idaho this winter to improve the department's ability to clear highways. ITD reminds motorists to be cautious and patient when driving near them because the wing plow extends an additional 8-10 feet on the right side of a regular snowplow.

“It’s never a good idea to pass through snow being thrown from a plow regardless of which direction the plow is moving it,” said District 3 Special Crew foreman Dave Dansereau, a 12-year veteran of snowplowing. “You never know what may be under the snow that the plow blade picks up and could cause serious damage to a vehicle.

“The snow being thrown from the plow will blind the driver and could be heavy enough to stop the windshield wipers from moving,” he added. “With the wing plows, it is increasingly important to not pass a plow on the right, as there could be a wing sitting there.”

Wing plows are used in tandem with the regular front-mounted plows. This is primarily a benefit in timely response, as crews can eliminate the need for a second pass by the plow to clear the lane and shoulder of snow, and saves fuel and labor costs. The wings also are a cost-effective solution: they are mounted on the same trucks ITD currently uses, and the department doesn’t have to add additional drivers.

“The primary benefit is to be able to clear more snow per pass,” Dansereau explained. “On some two-lane roads, we can clear from centerline to shoulder in one pass, which can save two hours or more on some sections.”

“That has two benefits,” Dansereau said. “The road is cleared quicker, and that truck can possibly go help on another road section to clear it more quickly. Both of these help improve customer service and traveler safety.”

With nearly 2,600 lane miles in southwest Idaho and more than 12,000 lanes miles throughout the state, this is a cost-effective solution that helps ITD maintain the same level of service to travelers. The alternative would be to purchase more trucks and hire personnel to operate them.

Several wing plows will be used on Treasure Valley highways this year, and some in outlying areas.

Helping equipment last longer and reducing the risks associated with winter snow removal are efficiency measures the department has adopted in an effort to stretch budgets while still ensuring the same level of service to travelers. ITD also is enhancing efficiency by:

* Using pressure limiters on plow blades that are calibrated by weight and pressure to help the blade last longer by reducing the time that the blade is in contact with a bare pavement surface and the weight/pressure that is brought to bear. It also helps the operator keep a level plane on the blade, so the corners excessively worn by running over immovable pavement surfaces, solid concrete or asphalt intersection corners or curb islands.

* Conducting daily (twice a day when the weather turns bad) avalanche monitoring on Idaho 21 in the avalanche-prone section between Grandjean Junction and Banner Summit. Monitoring began Nov. 1. Doing so can drastically reduce the amount and duration of closures, which are economic and convenience benefits.

Published 12-9-2011