DOT uses tow plows to maintain roadways in Alaska

Tow plows are utilized by DOT to efficiently and safely maintain the roadways in the Alaskan interior. (Ramzi Abou Ghalioum/KTVF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Despite how far technology has come, navigating Alaska’s terrain continues to pose certain difficulties. The climate, combined with the topography, can pose challenges that require special tools to overcome.

According to Daniel Schacher, Fairbanks District Superintendent for Maintenance and Operations at the Department of Transportation (DOT), if something works in Fairbanks, it will work anywhere. For Schacher, whose job involves maintaining the roadways in and around Fairbanks, staying current with the tools available to him carries many benefits. These include making his job easier, as well as spending taxpayer money more wisely.

Among the tools at the DOT’s disposal that meet these criteria is the tow plow. “A tow plow is basically a trailer that is pulled behind one of our already existing plow trucks that can be swung out,”said Schacher, elaborating that “these [two specific tow plows] that we have to allow us to clear more roadway.”

The tow plows are implemented during snow clearing operations at the vanguard of a convoy of snow clearing vehicles. On major roadways like the Steese Highway, Schacher explains that two tow plows are used in sequence to push a large amount of snow off the main roadway. Following them are vehicles that are used to finish off the task. Using the plows in a convoy is the more efficient, and safer, alternative.

Increasing efficiency still is a large stainless steel tank called a spreader unit, which spreads sand and other abrasives on the roadway as it is cleared. "The whole goal of this is to take care of this in one operation. We plow the road, we put down the abrasives, and the public is best served right there,” said Schacher.

The two tow plows that the Alaska DOT utilizes are referred to by names that were given to them by a special group of Alaskans. “We enlisted the help of all the kindergarten classes here in the Fairbanks North Star Borough,” said Schacher. “They came up with some great names. We ended up picking Jack Frost and Jill Frost to name these two tow plows."

However, Schacher maintains that the DOT is only one part of safety on the road. He says that other drivers must be vigilant of advisory signage during snow clearing and other roadway maintenance operations.

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