Winter’s coming: RIDOT says it’s ready for battle with bigger snow arsenal

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — With winter quickly approaching, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has taken extra precautions to treat and plow the roads.

“We’ve all enjoyed the mild weather this fall, but winter is coming and we’re more than ready to tackle whatever Mother Nature throws our way,” Raimondo said. “RIDOT has increased its snow fighting capabilities to keep the roads safe and clear them as quickly as possible after the last flake flies.”

At a news conference at RIDOT’s maintenance garage Tuesday, Raimondo said the state purchased 15 new plow trucks, expanding the fleet to 142 trucks across the state.

The state also purchased five bridge washing trucks, which are brand new to Rhode Island. The trucks, which cost $250,000 each, will use water to wash salt off the surfaces and underneath bridges after storms.

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“To enable us to wash some of the salt solutions and things that corrode our bridges off of them and make them last longer,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti told reporters.

“It’s much more expensive to rebuild the bridge than proper maintenance,” Raimondo said. “So, part of our plan is investing in maintenance which saves a huge amount of money in the long run.”

By 2019, RIDOT plans to purchase 71 new trucks to help replace aging and worn out vehicles.

RIDOT also announced it will increase staffing, adding 20 new positions. Last year, RIDOT added 40 new positions.

The governor’s office also said RIDOT will be conducting a pilot program which will test high-tech portable weather sensors in its trucks. The program will be funded with a $100,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Road Weather Management-Weather Savvy Road Program.

RIDOT said six of the trucks will have the new sensors which will provide real-time data on air and pavement temperatures and humidity levels. This information will then be displayed in the vehicle while also being transmitted to RIDOT’s storm operations center. These sensors will work in conjunction with a network of more than a dozen fixed weather stations that were previously installed across the state.

“The safety of the traveling public is our highest priority at RIDOT, and we’ve been working throughout the year to improve our winter storm response,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti said. “With new trucks, new staff and new technology, we’re well positioned to respond to any type of winter storm and keep our roads passable.”

In addition to these changes, RIDOT said it will also continue to remain well stocked with road salt, while also continuing to utilize automated pothole patching machines.