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A new snow removal machine will be cruising Interstate 76 through Portage County this winter -- a 22-foot wide plow that can clear two highway lanes at once.
The Tow Plow system is making only its second appearance in Ohio with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The system has been used in Ashtabula County for the past three winters. The Portage County tow plow is one of three currently being used by ODOT. The third tow plow will be operating in Mahoning County.
District 4, which includes Ashtabula, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull counties, is the only one in Ohio with the tow plows.
"The guys in Ashtabula just love it," said Justin Chesnic, ODOT spokesman, at Friday's winter readiness event at the ODOT garage in Ravenna. The combination allows one driver to clear two travel lanes or one lane and a shoulder, completing work that normally would take two trucks and drivers.
The Tow Plow was designed and first used by the Missouri Department of Transportation and manufactured by Viking Cives Ltd. of Mount Forest, Ontario, Canada. It is pulled being a plow-equipped Western Star tandem truck, the first in ODOT's inventory.
The driver uses hydraulic controls to swing the plow to the right or left and raise or lower it for snow removal.
Both the plow and truck are equipped with salt and brine containers, allowing them to clear and treat the roadway at the same time, Chesnic said.
District 4's Portage County Maintenance Garage will be using the tow plow on I-76 between the Summit County line and the Mahoning County Line. The plow has a salt hopper with a six-ton capacity and a 250-gallon brine tank that can apply to the second cleared lane. The truck has 10-ton salt capacity and two tanks with a combined 300 gallon capacity for brine or liquid calcium.
The tandem truck is equipped with cameras to help the driver monitor the plow's performance and the amount of material remaining in its hopper.
The tow plow is being used in conjunction with a University of Akron research project to measure the effectiveness of the tow plow in a non-snow belt area.
As with all snow removal equipment, Chesnic said "motorists need to be careful and patient" around the tow plow. "Snow plows travel at about 45 mph to work effectively," he said, and motorists should give snow removal equipment space to do its job.
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Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier