County garages of the Ohio Department of Transportation all over the region moved into high gear Thursday, Nov. 15, as the first significant threat of winter precipitation threatened the area.
"When it comes to snow and ice and you have the first big storm coming, especially this early on, it’s important to remind motorists to slow down and move over for plow trucks," Morgan Overbey said. Overbey is the public information officer ODOT District 5, which encompasses Guernsey, Coshocton, Fairfield, Knox, Licking, Muskingum and Perry counties.
"Always give them room to work," she said. "One thing for sure is to always give yourself a little bit of extra time during your morning commute in snow and ice season. That’s definitely crucial."
One of the biggest complaints ODOT receives during inclement weather periods this time of the year is residents claiming that their roads have not been treated.
"When the snow is coming down like it sometimes does, it is almost impossible to keep up," she said. "You could go over a route and, when you reach the end and come back, it would be like it wasn’t even touched even though it was."
Part of the issue is the speed with the trucks move, said Jill Warner the ODOT transportation administrator for Guernsey County.
"To treat safely and effectively, our drivers drive at about 35 mph to make certain the material is placed correctly," Warner said. "So, it takes a while to get through all of the routes."
So, what sort of distance are the highway technicians (the plow drivers) covering?
In Guernsey County, ODOT takes care of 600 "lane miles" of highways that include state routes, U.S. routes and interstate highways.
They are not responsible for the portions of those highways that are within the city limits although, by contract, they do take care of those routes that pass through villages.
The ODOT Guernsey County Garage employs 26 full-time highway technicians and will hire up to 16 seasonal technicians during the period that runs from late November or early December through March. During that time, the technicians may work shifts as long as 16 hours although Warner prefers to limit the shifts to 12 hours.
Also employed are two transportation managers, two mechanics and an administrative professional as well as Warner.
In addition to the main garage on Glenn Highway just west of Cambridge, ODOT has two manned locations, one each in North Salem and Old Washington as well as two outposts, one in Cumberland and one at the former weigh station on Interstate 70 eastbound.
ODOT has 23 dump trucks with plows that it deploys in Guernsey County.