MoDOT to test gear, routes this week

TOWN AND COUNTRY, Mo. - A chill is in the air and that means winter can`t be far behind. To prepare, MoDOT is testing its winter equipment and getting its snow battle plan ready this week. This Wednesday and Thursday, MoDOT crews all around the St. Louis region and the state will make sure they're ready for winter weather by doing the winter operations drill.

In the St. Louis region, crews will be conducting the drill both days on Wednesday and Thursday. Statewide the drill will take place on Thursday.

During the drill, crews will test their vehicle equipment including plows and MoDOT's emergency operations centers will activate. Crews will also drive different snow routes to make sure they`re familiar with various areas. Emergency communications systems will be tested as well. When the drills are happening, drivers may see more MoDOT vehicles on state routes with plows attached to them.

MoDOT St. Louis officials say they ordered 13,000 tons of salt for the St. Louis region for this season. The cost was $660,000. That might sound like a lot but MoDOT says the price for salt actually dropped 13%.

Leaders with MoDOT in St. Louis say 80 additional people have been hired here locally to help drive plows during winter storms. We`re told one main reason that St. Louis takes two days for the winter operations drill is because a lot of drivers need training.

MoDOT St. Louis officials say there is a significant change this year that should help drivers in our area cope with winter roads. MoDOT says for the first time this year, the main Ballas and Broadway yards will use salt that has been pre-mixed at the yards with a magnesium chloride solution. The pre-mixing means no more mixing on the roads in trucks that operate in the heart of the St. Louis region.

"This particular product ... is called Ice Band. It’s magnesium chloride mixed with a corn product that makes it like corn syrup so it actually sticks together more and it sticks to the road," said MoDOT District Maintenance Engineer Mark Croarkin. "We experimented a little bit with it last year and it was very effective. The bigger advantage is it sticks to the road it works in colder temperatures. It appears to activate quicker than salt by itself; so to date, it's melted ice, it’s melted snow faster than just salt."

With regard to the drill, crews will move out in rural areas this Wednesday and Thursday at 8 a.m., in urban areas, crews will start an hour later at 9 a.m. The drills should wrap up on each day by 3 p.m.

Just in case anyone forgot from past years, MoDOT St. Louis can have more than 400 people working and 200 trucks on the road at one time during storms.

MoDOT covers close to 6,500 miles in the St. Louis region.