DOT to survey drivers on snow and ice removal on the highways

May 7, 2018

North Dakota’s department of Transportation says it didn’t hear many complaints about snow removal in areas served by eight shuttered maintenance shops.

To save money, the 2017 Legislature approved a plan by DOT to close maintenance garages in Gackle, Courtenay, Litchville, Fessenden, Finley, New England, Mayville and Starkweather. People in those cities came to the Legislature to protest, saying they would have to wait for snowplows from outside those areas.

"We knew fully well those communities would see a change in service," said DOT Operations Director Wayde Swenson. "But I guess we didn't hear a whole lot of major concerns about it."

Swenson said one of the reasons could be the “track-a-plow” pilot program. DOT equipped 47 of its 350 plows with an Automated Vehicle Location system. People could log on to the DOT Website and find out where the plows were.

Swenson said DOT will determine later this summer if the "Track a Plow" program will continue and expand.

"I think the Department wants to make it statewide," Swenson said. "But we have not evaluated it fully yet."

DOT will be taking a survey of how things are going with snow removal and ice treatment on the highways.

"We're hoping to get the survey out in the near future," Swenson said. "We want to get drivers before summer kicks in, and we can still have some memory of how the winter went."

Swenson said the survey will ask what drivers have seen during wintertime, as well as what they’re willing to accept.

"We;ll have the scenario of snow coming overnight," Swenson said. "There will likely be three pictures, showing different types of road conditions, and we would ask their level of acceptance for snow cover at 6 am, 8 am and noon. We would gauge the  acceptability of snow-covered pavement versus bare pavement at those time intervals."

Swenson said this survey should help DOT do its job during wintry conditions.

"We think we have a good feeling of what the public wants," Swenson said. "But we've never asked."