The Iowa Department of Transportation is making the transition into its winter operation phase.
Winter operations director, Craig Bargfrede, says they will gradually refit equipment from construction maintenance work to be ready for winter. “The garages have to balance having the ability to go out and treat should we get and early season storm — and to be able to continue do other maintenance activities that are appropriate for this time of year,” Bargfrede explains. “So there’s a certain percentage of the equipment in each one of the garages that they’ll have outfitted and ready to go.”
The DOT has 101 maintenance garages across the state that house 902 trucks, 42 motor graders, 27 tow plows, and 11 heavy-duty, self-propelled snowblowers. “A lot of the garages are doing the overall maintenance, checking equipment and making sure everything is functioning properly. Installing blades, doing all of the calibration on our sanders that we need to do to be ready once winter hits,” Bargfrede says.
The department buys salt during the spring and summer when prices are lower to have it ready for winter use. “Garages have been receiving salt over the summertime and getting the sheds filled and ready to go. So, at this point in time we’ve got plenty of the supply on hand and on the ground and ready to go once those first storms hit,” he says.
While you might buy a one pound bag of salt for your driveway — the DOT buys truckloads. “Overall statewide we’re somewhere just over 222,000 tons of salt,” Bargfrede says. They spread salt and sand and also use 28 million gallons of salt brine to treat the roads during the winter.
The department has more than 1,000 full-time employees — and Bargfrede says they are also searching for some more people to work this winter. “We’re looking for just over 600 seasonal employees to be able bring on statewide to help augment our full-time staff. It’s really a key part of our winter operations to be able to have that level of augmentation of our full-time staff in order to meet what our requirements are,” Bargfrede says.
He says many of the added winter workers come from other occupations that are seasonal. “Construction is a large area,” He says.”We do in the rural areas have a lot of farmers that once they are done with the harvest, then they come out and help us plow, drive truck and do the things we need to do from a maintenance standpoint as well,”
Bargfrede encourages anyone who is interested to check out their winter work opportunities. He says the best thing to do is to go to the DOT website and look under the careers heading. “Otherwise you can stop into your local garage and contact your local garage supervisor and they would be able to give you information as well,” Bargfrede says.
Bargfrede says he gets asked all the time when he expects the first snow — and says he doesn’t have a crystal ball to predict that — he just wants his crews ready when it hits.