Governor Tom Vilsack visited a D-O-T maintenance garage last night to signal his appreciation for the work D-O-T crews are doing in this storm. “You know, I actually used to ride some of the trucks when I was mayor of Mount Pleasant,” Governor Vilsack told Gary McDaniel, the operations assistant at the D-O-T’s maintenance garage on the north side of Des Moines. “Well, I’m sure everybody’s busy,” Vilsack said. “Yes, we are,” McDaniel replied before leading Vilsack through the heated garage. Iowa Department of Transportation director Mark Wandro says the state has nine-hundred snow plows at the ready for just this kind of storm. Only four were in garages last night, being repaired. Wandro says the state has great equipment and the D-O-T works hard to keep it maintained well. But he says with the kind of wear and tear on a snow plow, they are bound to break down sometimes. Snow plow operators are working 12-hour shifts. “Each piece of equipment that isn’t broken is out being utilitized,” Wandro says. The governor says snow plow drivers and state troopers are doing yeoman’s work this week. “One of the principle responsibilities that any government has is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens…and sometimes we think of safety and security in a lot of differnt ways, but we may not think of it in relationship to a winter storm and the necessity of having safety highways and roads to use,” Vilsack says. Vilsack says the state has a dedicated group of state troopers who are out on the road in hazardous conditions to assist stranded or injured motorists. Vilsack says citizens have a responsibility, too, “to slow down (and) to travel only when necessary.” The state uses about 250-thousand tons of salt and sand on highways and interstates every winter. The D-O-T’s budget for maintaining the roads during the winter is about 35-million.
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