Armed with new equipment, WVDOH ready for Christmas Eve snow

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – A winter storm is expected to blanket most of West Virginia with 3 to 6 inches of snow beginning on the afternoon of Thursday, Dec. 24, and continuing through Christmas Day. Road crews with the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) are ready for the challenge, armed with 185 brand-new snowplows.

“The 2020 equipment plan was the largest buy plan in the history of DOH,” said Todd Campbell, assistant director of the WVDOH equipment division in Buckhannon.

Fueled by Gov. Jim Justice’s massive Roads to Prosperity construction and maintenance program, Campbell said state highways officials authorized the purchase of more than $40 million in new equipment for Fiscal Year 2020, which began on July 1, 2019.

By comparison, the equipment budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which is currently underway, comes to about $18 million, he said.Since July, Campbell said, WVDOH has ordered and received 185 new snowplows. The vehicles include 23 new single-axle Ford F-550 trucks, capable of carrying about 3.5 tons of salt; 60 new mid-sized International trucks, capable of carrying about 7.5 tons of salt; and 102 two-axle Freightliner trucks, each of which can carry about 15 tons of salt. The large Freightliner trucks will be a mainstay of the snowplow fleet, dedicated to keeping West Virginia’s interstate highway system clear.

During spring, summer, and fall months, the trucks serve as traditional dump trucks, hauling stone or whatever other construction materials might be needed. Come winter, each is fitted with state-of-the-art plows and salt spreaders to help clear the Mountain State’s 555 miles of interstate, and more than 34,000 miles of secondary roads.

In addition to their front-mounted plows, Campbell said 20 of the big Freightliners are fitted with wing plows – additional blades mounted on the right side of the trucks that will allow them to plow more than one lane at a time.

Some trucks will also be equipped to spread salt brine, a mixture of salt and water that allows road crews to pre-treat roads prior to bad weather, making it easier and cheaper to plow and salt roads once the ice and snow arrive.

Campbell said the new vehicles are more fuel-efficient and ergonomic than previous snowplows, a fact appreciated by drivers.

“You just reach over, and it’s all joystick,” said Andy Estep, an equipment operator with the WVDOH District 1 garage in Charleston. He said the new equipment makes a big difference in WVDOH’s readiness to tackle bad weather.

“We just want to make the roads as safe as possible for the general public,” Estep said.

Campbell said the technology does not come cheap. “You’re looking at about $22 million for just the tandem-axle trucks,” he said. He said WVDOH spent about $11 million for the new International trucks and about $1.8 million for the F-550s.

Gov. Justice’s ambitious Roads To Prosperity program also allowed for highways officials to buy 30 new Gradall excavators, eight new paving machines, 10 new rollers, 20 road graders, and several tractors, end-loaders, and trailers. These pavers were in use by WVDOH crews on projects throughout the summer.

WVDOH reminds drivers to give snowplow drivers space to keep everyone safe on the roads.