HANOVER, Md. – A repeat of Snowmaggedon isn’t in the forecast — at least, not in the immediate future.
But should Old Man Winter decide to do his worst on the highways this year, the Washington region has a new weapon in its arsenal.
The Maryland State Highway Administration recently unveiled the “Tow Plow,” a heavy-duty plow truck with a long, second plow attached to its rear. When fully deployed to the truck’s right rear, it can salt and plow a second lane of snow, without the need for a second driver.
“Every time we get a big snow, there’s always that, ‘What can we do differently?'” says MSHA spokesperson Valerie Burnette-Edgar. “This is something that is a viable option.”
A standard dump truck with a plow costs $150,000. The tow plow attachment costs $86,000, or about 57 percent of the cost of a second truck.
“Even though that’s still a lot of money, it’s not a whole other truck. And it’s a good opportunity to see what we can do with less,” says Burnette-Edgar.
Maryland has purchased two Tow Plows on a trial basis. One will be based along Interstate 70 at the Dayton Maintenance Facility in Howard County. The other will be housed in Garrett County along Interstate 68.
But if heavy, plowable snow is forecast for the Washington region, MSHA says the Tow Plow could be deployed closer to the metro area.
Two MSHA drivers have received training to haul the Tow Plow. One of them, Dave Nichols, has been plowing snow for the state for four years. His warning to drivers — if they see the Tow Plow up ahead this winter — is to stay back.
“We get vehicles that like to pass us every once in a while with regular plow trucks. They’re not going to be able to pass this,” says Nichols.
Along with the Tow Plow, the state of Maryland has up to 2,400 pieces of snow-fighting road equipment at its disposal.
The Tow Plow was first used in Minnesota and is already a regular feature of the snow-fighting arsenal in a handful of other states, mainly in the Midwest.