Preparations for Old Man Winter’s arrival are being made by Ohio Turnpike workers.
Amherst’s maintenance garage on Oberlin Road was one of eight buildings along the 241-mile turnpike to grind out 136-point inspections of all snowplows and equipment the week of Oct. 18.
“Turnpike customers expect a premium road to travel on during the winter,” said maintenance engineer Chris Matta. “When required, crews will work 12-hour shifts and seven days a week to provide customers a safe and reliable route.”
Open house events were held at all eight garages on Oct. 22. Residents were invited to get an up-close look at the equipment and inspection process used to prevent crashes.
Many times, crashes on the turnpike are due to factors besides the weather.
“Speed and distracted driving are the biggest safety factors for us,” said Adam Greenslade, director of government affairs, communications, and marketing for the turnpike. “If you look at all of our accidents, pretty much every one of them is attributed to one of those factors, even if the weather also played into the cause.”
In 2015, the Ohio Turnpike was hit with 206 winter storm events that crews combated for over 16,000 hours. They used more than 120,000 gallons of liquid chemicals and 40,000 tons of sodium chloride to clear roads of snow and ice.
According to Greenslade, approximately 100 snowplows are available at any moment to maintain the 1,395 lane miles, 31 interchanges, and 14 service plazas on the turnpike.
“We put the best trucks and best equipment available behind our drivers,” he said. “These guys just need room to work. I think it’s a good thing for people to come out, see how big these trucks are, and become familiar with how drivers see the road from inside a truck.”
Self-driving vehicles and their effects on road maintenance have been a popular topic among turnpike officials.
“We’re talking about automation today and not in the future… We don’t think this is some far-off thing. It’s happening right now,” said Greenslade, who spoke of a fall meeting with an engineering firm that’s been heavily involved with smart city initiatives to see what they feel is the next big step in automation.
Some automated vehicles could be tested by the Ohio Turnpike in the near future. Those would not necessarily be turnpike trucks, but other commercial cars and vehicles, Greenslade said.
“We’re a great proving ground and training ground for autonomous vehicles,” he said. “We’re largely a rural, straight, and flat interstate with wider road markings. For what these vehicles need to operate, it’s a very ideal testing area.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy photo The Ohio Turnpike conducted its yearly inspection of hazardous weather equipment the week of Oct. 18. It is also trying to anticipate advancements in automation and how they could effect services on the turnpike.