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IDOT Ready To Clear Highways When Snowstorm Hits

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An Illinois Department of Transportation snow plow sits idle in a state garage during a mild start to the 2011-2012 winter season. (Credit: CBS)

An Illinois Department of Transportation snow plow sits idle in a state garage during a mild start to the 2011-2012 winter season. (Credit: CBS)

tafoya250 Bernie Tafoya
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CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s going to get progressively worse on Chicago area roads this afternoon and evening as the winter’s first snowstorm moves through, but the Illinois Department of Transportation said it’s ready to keep highways as clear as possible.

WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports one guy who will be putting in countless miles this winter behind the wheel of a loaded 14-ton salt truck is IDOT driver Michael Vick.

Vick said motorists need to give plows space in front, otherwise drivers won’t be able to build up enough speed for the salt spreading mechanism to do its job. He said salt trucks must be going at least 12 miles an hour for the spreader to work.

“A lot of times, drivers will see an opening in front of our truck, because there might be 50, 20 feet in front of us. But we’re trying to salt; if we’re stuck in traffic and we only move four feet at a time, the machine doesn’t actually start to distribute the salt,” he said. “We’re actually basically stuck with the salt in the truck, until traffic starts to move.”

Vick also suggested leaving room for the width of the plows, which are 12 to 14 feet wide.

According to IDOT’s Bill Helm, many motorists must get re-acquainted with winter driving each year, and forget they can’t go as fast as when it’s sunny and warm.

“A lot of people seem to … forget that this is Chicago, it is winter. You know, take your time,” he said.

Vick said don’t think drivers are ignoring any snow-covered lanes if you’re stuck in traffic during the snowstorm.

“When there’s traffic, we’re actually plowing the shoulder. A lot of times that’s for the emergency vehicles to come through,” he said

Helm said most of the salt crews will be spreading this winter is left over from last year, when it was a very mild winter.

“We have over 100,000 tons of salt at our disposal throughout District 1 [Cook, DuPage, Will, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties]; a tremendous cost savings, obviously, to taxpayers,” he said.

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