ODOT tries to keep drivers safe on the pass

ASHLAND, Ore. — Snow plows have hit the roads to keep drivers safe on the pass. With the first taste of winter, ODOT is ready and armed with salt and sand.

Every morning ODOT Transportation and Maintenance Specialist Bobby James clocks into work before most even have their first sip of coffee.

“We clock in at six in the morning in our Ashland office and take on whatever task is required. In this case, keeping the freeway safe for travel,” James said.

A team of three plows work together to clear the roads. The first plow is armed with de-icer, the second vehicle salt and the third sand. James’ team works on just a portion of I-5 from exit six to just past the border.

“California will typically come up as far as this exit and turn around to help us out,” James said.

After a loop or two the plows need to refill their supply. The route takes roughly 20 minutes.

“We’ll average between 25 and 30 miles per hour or as fast as the slowest truck will go,” James said.

Even with workers constantly plowing and salting the road, it doesn’t take long for a snow storm like this to make the highway dangerous to drive.

“This is where it starts to get interesting,” James said. “The snow is building up faster than we can keep up with it,” James said.

After an hour or two, ODOT had to call a temporary hold of northbound and southbound traffic.

“If we have enough traffic stuck that we need some time to clear out without adding more cars to the mix,” James said.

As the weather worsens, calls came over their radios of trucks sliding out, so a pusher vehicle gets sent out to help the trucks along.

Chains are required on I-5 north and southbound. I-5 northbound is closed to all traffic just north of Redding and south of Dunsmuir.

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