State, municipal crews work hard regardless of snow
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – When there isn’t snow falling consistently anywhere in the state, Colorado Department of Transportation plow drivers still have plenty to do.
Around this time last year, plow drivers were barely coming up for air as they worked 12-hour shifts, back-to-back, for stretches as long as 11 days, 18 days and 21 days. This year, some drivers were able to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day home with their families – something practically unheard of at CDOT.
The drivers got the first snow of the year on Jan. 7, and the latter part of 2011 also remained relatively dry, especially along the Interstate 70 corridor.
So as skiers and snowboarders wondered and worried about when the snow would fall, the maintenance crews at CDOT were busy catching up.
“Our backlog of work that needs to get done is a lot higher than what we can do,” said Toby Brown, CDOT’s superintendent of maintenance for the Vail region. “There’s plenty to do.”
There are a lot of guardrail hits, for example, in the mountain areas. CDOT crews around here have been concentrating on fixing and replacing guardrails for about a month.
The maintenance workers are much more than snowplow drivers – they do it all.
“Pothole patching, working on bridges – they’re servicing their trucks, changing the oil,” Brown said. “They do everything from mowing grass to weed eating to painting buildings.”
And the maintenance crew employees have to account for every minute of every day. Sitting in the shop and reading the paper is not an option, Brown said.
The crews never quite caught up on bridge and guardrail repairs last winter because the snow never really stopped falling.
“We never were able to get as much done as we wanted done,” Brown said. “So this year, we’re still working on stuff that didn’t get done last year.”
It feels good to play a little bit of catch-up, but Brown said everyone is worried about the snowpack and the impacts it could have on the water supply this summer.
Public works crews around the valley are no different than CDOT in that they have plenty of work to finish when there’s not much snow to plow. Town of Vail Public Works Director Greg Hall said his crews have been “catching up on a lot of other maintenance.”
There are some savings, mostly with equipment, that are associated with a light start to the winter in terms of snowfall, but Hall said the costs of it not snowing are far greater than anything his department saves in fuel and maintenance.
“It doesn’t compare to the lack of the other side (sales tax and other revenues) coming in,” Hall said.
A bright side to the slower start to winter is that Hall’s department can be more responsive to requests from other town departments now. The crews are able to help out with many different projects, he said.
“We’re catching up – last year we didn’t really have any breaks,” he said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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