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City and MODOT Winter Crews Ready, Should Weather Worsen

Both the City Streets Department and the Missouri Department of Transportation have made preparations to respond to winter weather if it happens overnight.
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Facing the threat of winter weather, however minor, the St. Joseph Streets Department stands ready to face that potential.

"As far as preparation, we're pretty much ready to go, and have been for a few weeks," said Assistant Superintendent of Streets Keven Schneider.  "We finished our snow plow school.  We have salt in, that's ready to go.  The trucks are all ready to go.  We'll put spreaders on at the end of our shift."

The City of St. Joseph knows what to do in a snow storm.

Day crews would be out 12 hours, night crews also would be out 12 hours.

And when they know it'll be a big snow storm they can pre-treat the roads.

But not when they're unsure what will fall from the sky.

"If it rains all night, all that's going to accomplish is to wash that salt off the street.  And then we won't gain anything," Schneider said.

The Missouri Department of Transportation handles the plowing on major highways and county roads.

MODOT will also wait and see before reacting with their fleet.

"Whenever a rain comes in first, it prevents us from doing a preventive liquid attack with the salt brine on the road or bridges or even to put salt down," said District Engineer Don Wichern.  "The rain will just dissolve it.  It's not good for the environment; it's not good for the travelling public."

Wichern has acknowledged MODOT's budget cuts in recent years, but says the force required for winter weather in this region has not changed a bit.

"We trimmed the fleet in regards to small cars and pickup trucks," he said.  "We've closed offices.  We've consolidated.  We've kept the snow fleet intact.  We've added bigger trucks, duel axle trucks.  We can stretch farther with a payload of salt.  We've added wing plows on our trucks so we can clear more surface area now.  We have fewer buildings, but as far as the people who fight the snow, we have the same force."

The response to an average winter can cost the region anywhere between two and five million dollars, a significant portion of MODOT's annual budget.

"We see it as a customer service priority, along with safety," Wichern said.  "People expect to get along to work, people expect to be able to go get groceries, to do the things they need to do."

The City Streets Department also says its winter weather budget has remained relatively unchanged over the past few years.

"We were lucky; if you remember the year before last it was very light.  We didn't use hardly any salt and that really helped our budget and our salt supply.  We've been kind of blessed in the past few years in that area," Schneider said, adding that in a normal winter, the city can go through as much as 6,000 tons of the salt material.
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