The Ohio Department Of Transportation garage in Canfield held a press conference on May 8 to unveil a recent award it had earned. The department received the American Public Works Association "Excellence in Snow and Ice Control" award for 2013. ODOT is the only state department of transportation in the country to receive this honor and District 4 was credited with playing an important role in all of it.
"It is truly an honor to be recognized for this prestigious award at ODOT, especially in District 4 where our workers see some of the harshest snow and ice conditions in the country," said District 4 Highway Management Administrator Dave Ray. "Our managers, highway technicians and mechanics have shown time and time again why they are the best in the snow removal business, and this award just reaffirms this."
District 4 basically covers northeast Ohio and includes the garage and facilities in Canfield. In fact, it was out of the Canfield garage that an important invention was born.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Joseph Maslach, ODOT District 4 transportation administrator for Mahoning County, is joined by highway technicians Michael Valko and Doug McElroy from the Canfield ODOT facilities to unveil a new sign that will be installed on the fencing at the facility. The sign reveals the award that ODOT received on May 8 for doing such a great job in clearing roads of snow and ice.
"Our MPT (multi-purpose trailer) truck is the only one of its kind in the state of Ohio," said highway technician Michael Valko. "It was designed and built in-house."
He said a former employee in Canfield came up with an idea to have a trailer that mixed and dropped the anti-icing liquid prior to the start of a snow and ice event. Prior to that, the event would happen and it would take several passes dropping road salt to break up the ice. Valko said the MPT truck coats the road and prevents the ice from sticking to the road surface. When the storm arrives, and after the pre-treatment, it only takes one pass to keep the roads clear.
Motorists have probably seen the MPT, which is a semi-truck and trailer that is out ahead of winter storm events.
Knocking down the number of passes the plow and salt trucks make has cut down on the District 4 budget. According to Joseph Maslach, transportation director for Mahoning County, District 4 spent $11 million on snow and ice removal this past season. The total budget for the entire state, including District 4 was $81 million.
While being efficient financially played a part in ODOT's award, a lot of it came down to the personnel.
"From management to the drivers and mechanics, it was a big team effort," Valko said.
Valko also pointed out that with the new green strobe lights on the ODOT trucks, motorists are paying more attention to the drivers during plowing and salting operations. He said people are giving room for the plow trucks to do their job and some are showing appreciation.
"When I am on Market Street in Boardman, the Boardman school bus drivers are always giving me the thumbs up," Valko said.
The Canfield facility operates on top efficiency when it comes to keeping all the state routes in Mahoning County clear. One could ask how that could be improved any further. The answer to that question came at the end of March when the Canfield garage took possession of its first tow plow.
The tow plow vehicle is a dual axle dump truck/plow that tows a state-of-the-art long trailer behind it. The trailer has four large wheels that can turn and make the trailer steer into the right lane. It comes with a plow and salt spreader that allows one driver in one truck to plow two lanes of highway at the same time. The new tow plow vehicle was first used in Ashtabula two years ago and has proven itself.
"We'll see how it does on I-680 and Ohio 11," Valko said. "No one can pass it when it is set for two-lane plowing, so I-680 would have to be done overnight when traffic is at a minimum."
On busy roads like Market Street and U.S. 224, the plowing will continue to be done with the standard plow trucks.
One other new addition to the Canfield facility's fleet will be a box trailer that will see use this summer. According to Canfield facility head of mechanics Ron Sharpe, one of the big summer problems has been crews who were cleaning out and repairing culverts and drains along state highways. In the past, crews had to drop what they were doing to run and get another tool or part. The new box trailer will contain everything needed to handle the job, including a generator for electricity to run power tools.
"This was another one of our in-house ideas," Sharpe said.
Sharpe's department has the task of maintaining more than 700 pieces of equipment ranging from the huge plow vehicles to weed whackers. Whenever the snow removal crew is called out, the maintenance crew will man the garage to immediately handle any breakdown or equipment repair.
Everything that happens at the Canfield facility and in District 4 has come together to earn the state the award for snow removal. According to Justin Chesnic, ODOT District 4 public information officer, the APWA award was established to promote excellence in the management and administration of public works snow and ice operations. It was designed to promote the best practices in snow and ice removal, while minimizing environmental impacts. ODOT had to compete against other state departments as well as county and municipalities across the United States.
"We are the first state agency to win this award," Chesnic said. "Our team in District 4 played an important part of that."