SIKESTON - With conditions coming together for the first snowfall of the year, Missouri Department of Transportation crews are preparing for whatever Mother Nature brings their way and asking area motorists to do the same.
"Keeping highways safe to the traveling public is most important to MoDOT," said Willie Chasteen, operations engineer. Motorists are urged to use caution when traveling area roadways throughout the winter, according to Chasteen, and should plan on traveling at slower speeds to compensate for winter conditions.
Before rough weather actually arrives, MoDOT crews pretreat roadways with salt brine beginning with bridges and overpasses. "Be extra cautious around bridges and overpasses - they do freeze first," said Lynelle Luther, area engineer for MoDOT. Each mile of roadway takes about 90 gallons of the salt brine solution.
During winter storms, crews work around the clock in 12-hour shifts. Approximately 200 pounds of salt per mile is used to help melt ice and snow from an average snowfall.
In addition to using caution to deal with road conditions, Luther said motorists should be patient with "the dump trucks that are out there trying to plow snow."
MoDOT's Southeast District uses over 170 trucks to cover the 4,500 miles of roadway in our region. Chasteen noted that "MoDOT trucks applying salt brine usually travel less than 40 miles per hour and snow plows usually travel about 20 miles per hour." Motorists should slow down and stay back at least 100 feet from these vehicles.
How long it takes to clear roadways "varies from storm to storm," said Luther. "It all depends on the storm, how cold the ground is, the temperature and how fast it's coming down."
As it is impossible to immediately clear all routes during a winter storm, most heavily used roads are cleared first.
Interstates 55 and 57 will be the first to receive attention along with Routes 60, 67, 412, 160 and portions of 51 and 74.
Second priority roadways include several numbered roads and heavily lettered routes.
Chasteen said Routes 144 and 172, along with lesser-traveled lettered routes, outer roads and service roads, comprise MoDOT's third priority.
Situations where roads need to be cleared to provide emergency vehicles and equipment access take precedence over this priority system, however. Emergency service requests must be channeled through a law enforcement agency or through the district's customer service center at 888-275-6636.
Road conditions throughout the state of Missouri are available by calling the Missouri State Highway Patrol Road Condition Hotline toll free at 800-222-6400. This information is also available at the MoDOT Customer Service Center or at the web site: www.modot.state.mo.us. "There's a section on winter road conditions," said Luther.