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PennDOT gears up for winter driving

Brad Pedersen
PennDOT officials began inspecting snow plows and other maintenance equipment on Friday, as part of their annual preparations for winter.

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PennDOT's Armstrong County winter plans, by the numbers

2013 Winter Budget: $1.6 million

Snow routes: 31

Snow lane miles: 1,434

Department owned trucks: 31

Reserve (knockout) trucks: 2

Anti-icing units: 4

Snow blowers: 1

Graders: 2

Permanent operators: 78

Temporary operators full-time: 8

Working capacity tons of salt: 5,289

Reserve capacity tons of salt: 3,000

Current inventory tons of salt: 5,538

Current inventory tons of anti-skid: 13,688

Salt brine gallons: 35,000

Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

As the fall days turn colder and flakes of snow begin littering the air, PennDOT officials are getting equipment and supplies ready for the winter season.

Winter is the busiest season for PennDOT officials, who are responsible for tending to 1,434 miles of roadways in Armstrong County, according to Ken Campbell, PennDOT's assistant Armstrong County manager.

“Regardless of the forecast of winter, in October, for two weeks, we do nothing but get to work on the trucks and get them ready,” Campbell said. “A lot of things have to happen to switch from our summer to winter maintenance programs.”

On Friday, officials conducted inspections of plows, blades, spreaders and brining systems installed on PennDOT's 31 trucks, Campbell said.

Officials knock rust off of the plows and equipment with a wire brush before making any necessary repairs and repainting, Campbell said.

It's not uncommon for equipment to need a lot of work and repairs as a result of being used for an entire season, Campbell said.

“At the end of the winter, the plows look all rusted, since they spent the entire season basically covered in salt,” Campbell said. “But before they go back out for another winter, everything is gone over with a fine-toothed comb by equipment managers from other counties, who are looking for any imperfection they can find.”

PennDOT employs 78 permanent operators in Armstrong County and brings in eight seasonal full-time employees, who cover shifts from 4 a.m. until noon, and noon until 8 p.m., Campbell said.

Usually, if it is snowing heavily, employees work an additional four hours of overtime, per shift, to make sure roads are cleared, he added.

Each truck typically covers a 45-mile route, and if one were to break down, the Armstrong office has two backups available, Campbell said.

“In an extended snowstorm, we might have two or three trucks down at a time,” Campbell said. “So sometimes, other drivers will pick up portions of other routes to get us through.”

Although PennDOT officials are out clearing roads around the clock when the snow falls, the best way for motorists to remain safe while driving in the winter is to slow down, Campbell said.

“Typically, our trucks drive between 25 and 35 mph, clearing the road in front of us and laying material behind us, and it takes time to clear our roads,” Campbell said.

“People need to slow down when it gets bad because there is nothing we can do to keep it from snowing, so the roads are going to get slippery.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or

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