Bring on the snow - transportation staff are ready
Investing in infrastructure -
When plow drivers get the call to “get your V on” in the winter, Jimmy Rhynes says it’s a signal that the storm was bad – but they’ve got it under control.
The V plow is only used to clear mountains of snow from completely blocked or empty roads. Rhynes – the operations supervisor at the province’s Queen’s County government depot - says it’s just one of the many tools the province has to help combat the coming Island winter.
“They’re saying it’s going to be a bad one, but we’re ready,” he said. “We’re just waiting for a skiff of snow to test everything.”
As the temperature drops, the pace at the province’s government depots picks up. Crews have been busy since October 1 installing plow fronts on trucks, and during the second week of October they put the wings on. By the first of November everything is dressed and ready to go.
In Queens County alone they have 55 machines to ready to tackle the winter -- everything from loader mount blowers and single axle trucks to tandem 4x4s, loaders, and graders.
The 2018-19 capital budget earmarked $1.5 million for the province’s highway maintenance fleet. With part of that investment, five 'slide ins' have been purchased and installed. A slide-in is a truck attachment that wets the salt as it pours, so the salt sticks to the road instead of spraying onto the shoulder. They plan to gradually replace all of the provincial salt trucks with this efficient upgrade, which uses 10 percent less salt.
Since 2015, investments in Island roads and bridges - including the construction of seven roundabouts, a major realignment of the Trans Canada Highway, the replacement of 16 bridge structures and paving work on 360 kilometres of Island roads – have enhanced the safety and efficiency of our Island road network.
After driving a plow in 25 Island winters, Rhynes knows snow removal. If you ask him, the more there is, the better.
“I love being out in the storm,” he said
Staff at the government depots work long hours during winter storms. Day shift workers stay later and night shift staff work into the wee hours to keep machines on the roads, and get the roads open for Islanders.
The depot staff play a key role in helping schools and others determine whether they should close during or following a storm. The depots get custom weather forecasts twice a day from the department’s five weather stations located strategically around the Island, and plow drivers report on road conditions before dawn so the depot can update the school board.
The top priority is getting students to and from school safely and making sure the plows are able to escort ambulances – even when roads are closed.
“That’s the worst part of the job,” Rhynes said. “When that ambulance is behind you, the pressure’s on.”
They’ve even taken the proactive step of stationing an ambulance in the depot when road closures are needed, so they could help it reach its destination faster.
What are Rhynes’s top tips for winter driving?
- Don’t pass the plows. Slow down and be patient. “We’re out there trying to help you,” he says.
- Avoid parking along roads when snow is predicted, so plow operators can effectively clear the street.
- Drive with four approved winter tires and watch for black (invisible) ice when temperatures are just under or just above freezing. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses, and shaded areas.
- Allow extra driving time to get to your destination, and have a winter survival kit in your vehicle that includes a snow scraper, non-perishable food and water, wind-up flashlight, and extra clothes.