MASON CITY, Iowa - Monday marked the first day of Iowa DOT's winter season, and crews are busy getting ready for the icy months ahead.
To do this, the department is continuing to add cameras on all of their 902 plows in the state, a process that began during the winter of 2013-2014. According to Pete Hjelmstad with the DOT's Mason City office, it cost $180,400 ($200 per truck) to add the cameras, which take pictures of when a plow is on the road and are uploaded to the state's 511 website to allow drivers to follow in real time. In addition, all plows will be equipped with blue and white lights in order to make them more noticeable by drivers in wintry conditions. Hjelmstad says the lights cost $451,000 to install on all plows.
Jill Scharper commutes from Mason City to Forest City for work, and has driven through some tricky weather over the years. She tries to stay alert of the road conditions using the state's 511 app.
"I really appreciate being able to do that, then you know which roads are already done, and you don't have to worry about whether you're getting into something. Because when you think of last year, the couple of times when we had 15 inches of snow, it's important to know those things."
She thinks the state's continuing to add new safety features is well worth it.
"Anytime there's something that will add safety to us and to other people, I'm all for that."
Mike Miller is a Highway Tech Administrator with the DOT, and says adding these cameras is an added benefit for commuters and drivers.
"They see exactly what the plow driver sees. Hopefully they can judge their travel plans better and adjust accordingly, stay off the roads when they're really bad, and let us do our jobs."
In addition, he says that the lights will help plows stand out when drivers see them on the road.
"The blue and white lights really help identify us a little bit from other vehicles out there that might be out there with amber lights like oversized loads or wide loads."
Once winter is in full swing, Miller warns people to be on the lookout.
"With us, especially on our 4-lane roads, you're gonna have trucks in the right lane and the left lanes, so the biggest thing is if they see blue and white lights, just be prepared for a slow going snow plow in front of them and to slow down and adjust accordingly."
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