Big snowfall is coming; how MDOT prepares

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This week, as meteorologists forecast a major winter storm for much of lower Michigan, the head of statewide maintenance and operations for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) talks about all the crews are doing to prepare.

Mark Geib, who is moving on to private industry after a rich 31-year career at MDOT, talks about the evolution of road maintenance work, innovations and all he’s witnessed.

He also shares an outline for what snowplow drivers and other employees are doing across the state to prepare for the storm. This includes preparation of equipment for MDOT’s fleet and for the 63 county agencies that plow state trunklines under contract. He explains why that hybrid model is unique to Michigan but saves taxpayers money because of economies of scale.

He also talks about how MDOT’s plow-naming initiative has put a spotlight on the Mi Drive site and allowed people to track the plows.

Geib’s outline for preparation for winter storms:

Prior to a storm/winter event:

  • Snowplow trucks are refueled and checked over mechanically
  • Employees are informed and briefed of the coming event in preparation
  • Communication happens between adjacent maintenance facilities as needed to coordinate, including MDOT's county road association partners

As the storm/winter event approaches:

  • Maintenance employees are called in/report to work
  • Road patrols drive the roads, monitoring conditions
  • The storm is monitored via weather outlets and the MDOT Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS)
  • MDOT maintains two work shifts to cover all 24 hours

Geib also discusses innovations to limit the use of salt on the roads, including successful measures that save on the cost of salt and help protect the environment by limiting what makes its way into tributaries.

This includes another explanation of how salt loses effectiveness in extremely cold temperatures.

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