News

Where the Hell Are the Snow Plows — and Does New Monitor System Give Answers?


As those of you who have ventured into the elements this morning know from personal experience, a snowstorm is currently hitting the Denver metro area.

The snowfall totals have led to school cancellations in Denver, Aurora, Cherry Creek and beyond.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Department of Transportation has chosen this particular weather event to roll out a new service that, according to a press release, sets out to answer the age-old question, "Where are the plows?"

Specifically, a new page on the CoTrip.org website that's accessible on a wide variety of devices is supposed to show you precisely where each CDOT plow is located in real time.

But the actual results are too muddy to be of much use.

Here's a screen capture of the site grabbed at 4:51 a.m.


This graphic makes it appear that plows are pretty much everywhere, particular along the I-25 corridor stretching from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.

And indeed, a bar along the right side of the frame lists the plows and their general location — 322 of them at this writing.

However, a click on a random plow provides only vague information.

Here's one example....

Snowplow: 70003238
Fleet: 70003238 (R1S05P07)
Last Location: I-25 N, Denver, CO 80222
Heading: North West
Speed: 28.0 mph
Distance Traveled in past hour: 21.4 miles
Last Updated: 02/2/2016 4:48 AM

As you can see, the location info indicates only the Zip Code in which the plow is located at the time.

Some listings have more specifics, including this one, which makes note of a ramp in Brighton....

Snowplow: 70002104
Fleet: 70002104 (R1S05P28)
Last Location: Ramp, Brighton, CO 80603
Heading: South West
Speed: 6.5 mph
Distance Traveled in past hour: 24.3 miles
Last Updated: 02/2/2016 4:48 AM

Of course, we suspect there's more than one.

In general, the data provides only a general idea about whether the road nearest you is being scraped.

As for me, my drive to work this morning from the Ken-Caryl area to Westword's offices at 969 Broadway in Denver was typical. I was in the car for around 45 minutes and I saw a single plow — on C-470 near Bowles — during that span.

As such, the new page seems more about placating angry drivers with a busy graphic than revolutionizing snowplowing in Colorado.

To try out the page for yourself, click here.

In the meantime, be careful out there.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts