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State panel approves winter plan for roads

PIERRE -- The state Department of Transportation added three tow-plows for this winter at Yankton, Rapid City and Custer. They make four for South Dakota. The first was already based at Sioux Falls last winter. Blade trucks pull the tow plows so ...

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PIERRE - The state Department of Transportation added three tow-plows for this winter at Yankton, Rapid City and Custer.

They make four for South Dakota. The first was already based at Sioux Falls last winter.

Blade trucks pull the tow plows so two lanes can be cleared at the same time. That saves about $1.65 per mile.

The expanded use represents one of the changes in the winter maintenance plan the state Transportation Commission adopted Thursday.

Jason Humphrey, a construction and maintenance engineer, outlined the department's general plan for clearing snow and ice from state roadways.

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Another addition this season is a mid-morning report on road conditions. He said plow crews would continue making early morning, mid-day and early evening reports.

The plowing hours remain 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time along most routes. High-traffic areas at Sioux Falls and Rapid City get more hours.

The department has about 400 plow trucks. Humphrey said about 100 trucks carry maintenance-support systems that use information from what happened in the past 24 hours to recommend what to do the next 24 hours for specific segments of roadway.

"It is a very scientific approach," he said.

Commission Chairman Ron Rosenboom, of Sturgis, said the tow-plows and data-driven responses impressed him.

Commissioner Mike Vehle, of Mitchell, said motorists inquired while he was a legislator whether South Dakota would reduce plowing hours.

"I appreciate the fact we're still going five to seven," Vehle said.

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