NDDOT: Interstates are priorityNorth Dakota’s two interstate highways are the priority of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, especially in the days after a fatal crash on a stretch of Interstate 94 in Jamestown. Six people died Wednesday morning in a two-vehicle wreck on I-94 just west of exit 258 when the truck they were riding in slipped on the ice, crossed the median and was hit by an oncoming semi.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota’s two interstate highways are the priority of the North Dakota Department of Transportation, especially in the days after a fatal crash on a stretch of Interstate 94 in Jamestown.
Six people died Wednesday morning in a two-vehicle wreck on I-94 just west of exit 258 when the truck they were riding in slipped on the ice, crossed the median and was hit by an oncoming semi.
“Our interstate system is our top priority when we go out to clear the snow,” said Jamie Olson, communications officer with the NDDOT. “That’s one of the most heavily traveled roadways. Our interstates in whatever district we’re in — those are always our top priority.”
NDDOT is responsible for clearing 8,518 miles of highways in the state, including roughly 560 miles on I-94 and Interstate 29.
The NDDOT is broken down into eight district offices across the state that have numerous shops in cities located in that district. District 2 is home to Jamestown with the head office located in Valley City. In District 2 there are 10 shops located in Ashley, Jamestown, Wishek, Courtenay, Litchville, Edgeley, Medina, Ellendale, Oakes and Gackle.
District 2 also has 43 operators responsible for 1,079 miles of highway.
Statewide there are 352 NDDOT snow plow operators with 377 total snow plows. The state has 230 other pieces of equipment to help clear roadways.
“We have a lot of snow-fighting equipment to say the least,” Olson said.
Days for plow drivers start around 5 a.m. and can go past 7 p.m. depending on road conditions.
Crews here in North Dakota use a combination of snow and salt to keep the roads drivable. When salt can no longer melt the ice when it gets too cold, sand is used more for traction.
Olson said each plow is equipped with technology like pavement thermometers that help determine what tools to use. Plow drivers also report road conditions so the NDDOT can display the data on a travel map shared online.
She said a driver’s job depends on the conditions and it doesn’t need to be snowing for the plows to be running.
“If it is snowing and snow needs to be cleared off the road, that’s what we’re doing. If it’s checking to see what the conditions are that’s what we’re doing ....” Olson said. “It’s a variety of things; it’s not any one thing.”
Olson said road conditions could be fine here and totally different in Windsor along I-94.
“We are constantly monitoring those roads conditions but it’s important for motorists to know those conditions can change so quickly (in winter),” she said.
Olson had some driving tips: Drivers should drive slower than the posted speed limit in winter conditions. Drivers should also never use cruise control in winter conditions as it can cause the wheels to slip. Drivers should always check the NDDOT website for up-to-date road information.
“It’s important to know too, we work really hard to get out there and clear the roads and inform the public,” Olson said.
On the Web:
North Dakota Department of Transportation Travel Information Map: http://1.usa.gov/12JI5Pw
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at email@example.com