Dept. of Transportation: Roads may take longer to clear due to driver shortage

Department of Transportation crews have already pre-treated state highways and roads.

John Craven

Jan 5, 2024, 5:24 PM

Updated 143 days ago

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Connecticut Department of Transportation crews have already pre-treated state highways ahead of this weekend's snow. But roads could take longer to clear because of a lingering plow driver shortage.
FIRST MAJOR STORM IN A YEAR
At the DOT garage in Wethersfield, it's getting salty. Crews are loading up 630 trucks for the first plowable snow in a year.
"It's always hard when we haven't had a storm for a couple of years," said Brenda Bergeron, deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
PLOW DRIVER SHORTAGE
DOT started pre-treating highways Thursday night. Once the flakes fly, 900 plow drivers will hit the road.
But the agency still has 115 vacancies. And adding "salt" to an open wound, DOT is also short a quarter of its outside contractors.
"It'll require a little more patience for drivers out there," said state transportation commissioner Garrett Eucalitto. "That's why we want people to stay off the roads."
Timing is on road crews' side. Even though some parts of the state could get a foot of accumulation, the heaviest snow should fall on Saturday evening – and will move out within 24 hours. That means roads should be in good shape for school and work on Monday morning.
Unions representing DOT workers warned that the shortage could get worse.
"Unlike our municipal counterparts, State DOT workers are on call from November to April and can be asked to work between 17 and 21 hours before a rest break," said Carl Chisem, president of Connecticut Employees Union Independent Local 511. "With short staffing and longer, more unpredictable hours, we will see an increase in overtime expenditures, and the agency may be forced to use expensive subcontractors this snow season. All of those factors negatively impact the state's fiscal budget."
"DON'T CROWD THE PLOW"
If you must go out, give plows plenty of space – or you might get a ticket.
"If we catch people acting in a dangerous manner, where they're crowding the plows and they create a dangerous situation, they certainly will – enforcement will be taken," said Col. Dan Loughman, with Connecticut State Police.
Unlike past storms, Gov. Ned Lamont does not anticipate any travel bans, including tractor-trailers. Eucalitto said any restrictions would be coordinated with neighboring states.
Lamont said, if you can stay home until the roads are cleared, the wait will be worth it.
"You can go to Mt. Southington. You can go to Mohawk," he told reporters. "But wait until we get the roads plowed and ready to go."
Check road conditions across the state here.


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