'The Beast' Ready To Clear Oklahoma's Turnpikes This Winter

Wednesday, December 4th 2013, 6:19 pm
By: Craig Day

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority road crews have some new machinery to help get ice and snow off the busiest turnpikes in the state.

New tow plows should clear the highway much faster.

Many western and northern states use massive tow plows to clear ice and snow, but this winter storm will be the first time the big machines will be used extensively here in Oklahoma.

There are 660 miles of turnpikes in Oklahoma.

It's a lot of ground to cover.

The job for more than 200 turnpike authority workers, and contractors, just got easier.

"We call it the beast," OTA maintenance superintendent Steve Allen said.

The beast is a tow plow, which is able to cover 26 feet of roadway, essentially two lanes at once.

12/4/2013 Related Story: State Road Crews Prepare Roads For Snow, Ice

A normal plow covers 10 feet.

"Having a heavy piece of equipment like that in our arsenal is fantastic," OHP Lt. Brian Orr said.

OTA spent $265,000 on each one of the tow plows, which will be used on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes.

"In days past, it took three trucks to clear one roadway, now we can use one truck," OTA's Jack Damrill said. "So now we can use those other trucks in other areas on the turnpike, so it will help in other areas, and hopefully we'll be able to clear the turnpikes faster for people because that's what they expect of us."

Drivers have received specialized training.

A laser beam shows them where the end of the back blade will hit the pavement.

A camera gives them a look at the position of the tow blade.

The machines are also equipped to spray magnesium chloride, a de-icing liquid onto roads.

"We can move 45 to 50 miles per hour in our big truck where our regular plows, we'll go about 25 or 30 miles per hour, so it will take less men, less equipment, and we'll move faster so traffic can move from one end to the next," maintenance superintendent Steve Allen said.

The Turnpike Authority expects to get another tow plow later this month and a fourth around the first of the year.

They'll be used on the Creek and Kilpatrick turnpikes.