After a first taste of winter, city and county road crews are ready to tackle whatever arrives next.
The city of Columbus has 3,000 tons of salt on hand, ready to spring into action to spread it on city streets, said Bryan Burton, director of public works. The county oversees 262 miles of roads within the city.
“We’re prepared and ready to go,” Burton said, following a mild winter last year.
The city has 16 people in its street department responsible for clearing snow and ice, while additional help is also provided by workers in the sanitation and traffic departments, Burton said.
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Preparation is also key for the county highway department, which has 600 tons of salt available and an additional 1,200 tons of salt mixed with sand, said Danny Hollander, Bartholomew County Highway Department engineer.
Both city and county road crews were out early Tuesday, when ice and snow combined to make driving treacherous. More that 40 accidents were reported across Bartholomew County, beginning in the early morning hours and continuing throughout the day.
The county oversees 700 miles of roads, which county workers will pre-treat if weather conditions call for that, Hollander said.
The county’s road crew is made up of 15 people who are assigned to designated areas throughout Bartholomew County to clear snow and ice from roads and bridges.
Hollander, who has been at the county for 13 years, said each winter presents different circumstances.
“Sometimes it starts (snowing) and seems like it never stops,” he said. “We’re just prepared for the worst if it hits us.”
The Indiana Department of Transportation also has a role, with the Seymour district responsible for maintaining federal interstates, U.S. highways and state roads that run through cities such as Columbus and Bloomington, which were slower to feel the brunt of winter than communities in northwest Indiana.
INDOT’s pre-treats state highways and bridges with brine, which helps thaw surfaces and helps snowplow drivers clear pavements easier, said Harry Maginity, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Southeast Indiana district.
The department also uses salt to make major arteries safe for winter travel, he said.
“We try to stay ahead of the game,” said Maginity, who expects this winter will be more challenging than last year.