A new snow plow monitoring system announced by the Colorado Department of Transportation does several things to help make winter driving safer. One of them is providing almost real-time location information for the department’s snow plow fleet. The Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) system makes it possible for anyone to go online to see which areas have already been plowed.
According to CDOT, in the significant snowstorm that hit Colorado last weekend, the AVL system gave drivers a new way to get information on which to base driving decisions. CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt said that one of the most common questions drivers ask CDOT is “Where are the plows?” AVL will help drivers and others understand how and where the department is working to keep people on the roads safe, Bhatt added.
Monitoring System Features
The AVL system is installed on 860 of CDOT’s 970 snow plows, and more will be online in the future. The system provides information in several different ways. It lets people see the current locations of snow plows, and also the plows’ travel speed and the direction they are moving in. Any plows that have not moved in more than 16 minutes will not appear on the map. Other plans for the system include adding a one-hour button to the snow plow page to show all roads that were plowed in the past hour, and additional tweaking of the trails showing the path of the plow truck.
CDOT wrote about more of the system’s features:
In addition to helping the public observe plow locations, the AVL system also generates real-time notifications to CDOT on how the plow is functioning. This will make it easier for CDOT crews to manage the fleet, direct plows to the areas where they are needed most and keep more plows on the road by addressing mechanical issues as quickly as possible.
The Denver Post reported that the area of the state with the largest number of snow plows is the Northeast part, with 175 plows. Southeast Colorado has 160, and the southwestern part of the state has 50, and so does the San Luis Valley/Lower Arkansas Valley area. West Central Colorado has 78 plows, and Northwest Colorado has 36.
In a related news item, Keagan Harsha reported for TheCW2 (KWGN) that Interstate 70 was closed Monday night in both directions between Denver and Kansas to prevent car accidents due to treacherous driving conditions. Strong winds that caused snow to blow and drift on the eastern Plains caused officials to close the interstate at North Airpark Road.
The Gazette wrote that blowing snow and decreased visibility were a threat to driving, and prompted the closure of Highway 24 in both directions from Colorado Springs to Limon. Other roads closed included about 100 miles of U.S. 40 and U.S. 287 in both directions on the Eastern Plains from Limon to Kansas, U.S. 385 from Burlington to Cheyenne Wells, 124 miles on U.S. 36 Byers to Kansas, Colorado 59 from Kit Carson to Cope in both directions, and Colorado 71 from Limon to Colorado 14.
Jack Ladley, an operations manager for the City of Colorado Springs’ Public Works Department, said the weekend snow storm was different from usual ones that usually “segment the city for plow crews.” But the weekend’s storm was “just spread out all over,” Ladley said. He referred to the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which the main character keeps reliving the same day, saying that plow crews would have to return to clear primary and secondary arteries a second time because of the persistence of the storm.
In a comment that indicates the need for CDOT’s new AVL system, Ladley said some residents get impatient, wondering when the plows will arrive: “I heard one person say, ‘Plows are like unicorns. I heard they exist, but I haven’t seen one.’ “