Pa. crews say they're ready for snow

December 23, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Tuesday night, just hours before winter officially began, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation crews in Franklin County were spreading "anti-skid" on snow-covered roads in the South Mountain and Blue Ridge Summit areas.

No one knows whether this winter will be mild or wild, but department officials said they are prepared either way with a budget of more than $1 million. Maintenance District 8-3 in Chambersburg is in charge of keeping 619 miles of state roads in Franklin County passable.

"We're ready for any kind of storm," said Roadway Program Coordinator Ed Leighty.

He said the department has 3,623 tons of salt stockpiled in the county, along with 4,804 tons of anti-skid and 16,588 gallons of liquid calcium.

The budget allows for the use of up to 8,100 tons of salt, 12,600 tons of anti-skid, and 66,500 gallons of liquid calcium chloride.


In the winter of 1998-99 the department used 6,747 tons of salt, 2,000 tons more than in the winter of 1997-98, according to Leighty.

A small mountain of salt is piled in a conical shed behind the headquarters at 619 N. Franklin St., and there are eight other sites in the county where anti-skid, made of chipped limestone, is stored, Leighty said.

The department has 34 plow trucks, according to Equipment Manager Perry Goetz. Some were loaded with anti-skid Tuesday in anticipation of a light snow, he said.

Goetz said the department can call on nine more trucks owned by contractors with which the department has rental agreements. The department has agreements with Quincy, Washington, Warren, Peters and St. Thomas townships to plow another 68 miles of state roads.

"Those municipalities do winter maintenance on those roads and are reimbursed by the commonwealth," Leighty said.

New technologies are available to the department, according to Goetz. Zero-velocity spreaders and anti-icing trucks are being used for the second year.

Unlike spin spreaders, the zero-velocity spreaders are gauged to the speed of the truck and use less salt per mile. "The average is about 500 pounds per lane-mile. ... The maximum is about 800," Goetz said.

If a major winter storm is expected, two anti-icing trucks can spread liquid calcium chloride hours ahead of time. The water evaporates, but leaves behind a layer of salt that acts like Teflon, keeping ice from bonding to the road and making it easier to scrape off, Goetz said.

For the first time the department can make its own salt brine, Goetz said. It has a machine to mix salt and water at four cents a gallon, as opposed to the 51 cents it costs to buy liquefied calcium.

From November to March the department has a night patrol, ready to react to winter storms, Goetz said. The department can mobilize 58 people to operate the plows in a big storm.

"The real work begins after the storm with the paperwork," said Roadway Technician Barry Newman. "I wouldn't have said that a few years ago when I was an operator."

Newman, Goetz and Assistant Maintenance Manager Dave Rock have more than 70 years of experience between them and all started at the bottom.

"I pushed a broom my first day. I push a pencil now," Newman said. Rock said the aftermath of a storm means restocking supplies and getting ready for the next one.

The 22 boroughs and townships in the county maintain another 1,000 miles of roads, according to county figures. There are almost 1,700 miles of state, borough and township roads in the county.

In Chambersburg, Dick Hawbaker, operations supervisor for Public Works, said there are 150 tons of salt and 75 tons of anti-skid stockpiled. The borough has budgeted $120,000 for snow removal in 2000, the same as this year.

"We're ready to go. Let it snow," Hawbaker said.

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