Road crews work to keep highways and their staff safe

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 10:39 AM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Winter road crews will be working a little differently this year, not because of the weather but because of COVID-19 concerns. The idea will be to back up as many crews as necessary just in case a COVID issue occurs.

The idea remains the same to keep the roads clean and safe, all while keeping those crews safe at the same time.

The process of clearing Ohio’s snowy roads for the next few days will look just like it has for many years. The key will be making sure there are enough people to do that clearing.

“The shifts are primarily only going to see the people on their shifts,” said Rebecca Dangelo of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

For ODOT, they run single-person trucks, which is social distancing friendly. Other staff won’t be around each other much. If someone does test positive or needs to quarantine, they’ll shift other ODOT crews, even from other counties if needed.

“Two weeks is a long time to not have somebody and being basically an emergency response, we need to be out there in bad weather to clear the roads,” said Dangelo.

On the Ohio Turnpike, also with single-person trucks, they’ll watch the path of the storm. Less snow to the west could mean more crews to the east.

“We really talk about how can we chase the storm if necessary, if we run short on personnel,” said Chris Matta of the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

The Turnpike runs two 10-person crews to cover a 24-hour shift. In a worst-case scenario, if a building’s worth of staff cannot work, others may be on the move to get plows down as soon as possible.

“Maybe way out west if they’re done with their snow and ice work just shifting everybody maybe 30-60 miles to the east to help out,” said Matta.

Matta says he’s usually worried about salt this time of year, but it’s 2020 so nothing is the same. Except for one thing: The job is and always will be about safety.

As ODOT talks to neighboring counties, the Turnpike folks talk with the Indiana Toll Road and the Pennsylvania Turnpike folks just to see if any crews or roadways need any extra help.

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