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VIDEO: NYSDOT to Employ Double-Lane Snowplows in Western Areas This Winter

Mon November 01, 2021 - Northeast Edition

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) announced in late October that new tow plows are coming to I-290 and I-990 in the towns of Amherst and Tonawanda this winter.

To the untrained eye, the large vehicles that will be traversing the snow-clogged lanes of the two interstates this coming winter might look like a regular snowplow dragging a large, jack-knifed trailer.

Despite their odd look, the tow plows also will enhance safety on the roads, explained Susan Surdej, a spokesperson of NYSDOT.

"People get the impression that they're riding behind something that's jack-knifed, and so we really want people to understand what they're looking at," she added.

The tow plows attach as trailers to the back of plow trucks and allow two travel lanes to be cleared of snow at once, the Buffalo News reported.

"The [NYSDOT] has one of the finest and best equipped snow fighting forces in the nation and we will use every tool in our arsenal to help keep motorists safe this winter," commented NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez in a statement. "Tow plows allow us to clear two lanes at once and using them on Interstate 290 and Interstate 990 will help keep people moving on these two vitally important roads when harsh weather strikes."

Her department noted that there are 52 tow plows in New York State's arsenal, and they have previously been deployed on the following Western New York roadways:

  • Interstate 86 in Chautauqua County
  • NY Route 400 in southern Erie County
  • Interstate 190 and LaSalle Expressway in Niagara County

According to NYSDOT, the benefits of tow plows include:

  • An increased efficiency, by allowing one plow truck operator to clear two lanes with one pass of the truck, snow removal becomes faster and more efficient.
  • Improved safety results from removing snow from two lanes at a time by providing more clear travel lanes for motorists to use.
  • Environmental benefits come about as it takes the same amount of fuel to plow two travel lanes with a tow plow as it does to plow one travel lane with a traditional plow.

The tow plows travel at about 35 mph and NYSDOT advises motorists to steer clear and give the operators time to do their work.

Double-Wide Tow Plows Not New to NY

The tow plows are not entirely new to the area, according to Surdej at NYSDOT. The agency has been using the tow plows to clear snow from I-86 in Chautauqua County and NY 400 in southern Erie County, as well as along the I-190 and the LaSalle Expressway for about five years, he said.

"However, they have not had primary use in the Buffalo metro area," Surdej told the Buffalo News. "So, this is something that people in the area are going to see more this season. It is supposed to be covering two lanes of traffic and is definitely a safe and efficient way for us to clear two lanes of traffic, but we really reserve them for use on expressways."

That means motorists should not expect to see these large, bulky vehicles traveling on Main Street or Niagara Falls Boulevard, Surdej added.

More Snow Removed More Quickly

The tow plow, used in combination with a 12-ft. front-mounted plow, will clear 24 ft. of road at once. Two cameras assist operators and help reduce blind spots. For the safety of other vehicles on the road, tow plows have a rear lighting package that mimics the lights of the truck body.

The tow plow trailing the truck is equipped with hydraulic tires that can be turned at an angle, which shifts the trailer out and drops two blades to clear two lanes of traffic. The result is one snowplow operator doing the work of two, NYSDOT noted in a press release.

In addition to the increased efficiency the tow plows offer, they improve safety by removing snow from two lanes at a time, increasing the number of clear travel lanes for motorists to use.

Though it may look unconventional, Surdej said motorists should regard the tow plow the same as a traditional snowplow.

"We want people to respect it, just like a traditional snowplow. You know, don't pass a plow. Give it a safe distance," she said.

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