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Wrapping up 2021 winter season: DOT and state patrol teamwork essential for public safety

Two Iowa public safety organizations are highlighting importance of communication, especially during emergencies.
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 6:46 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - When 40 cars were piled up on I-80 near Newton back in February, it was the Iowa State Patrol and Department of Transportation who helped get the interstate back open and people to safety.

While they’re separate organizations, DOT’s Winter Operations Manager, Craig Bargfrede says the organizations work like coworkers.

Each year after winter wraps up, they do a review to see what they can improve on. He says each year they find the relationship between DOT and state patrol only gets stronger.

“What I’ve seen in my time here is such an improvement between the two organizations and the ability for us to coordinate and work together. Especially when have these very severe winter events like we saw this past year,” Bargfrede said.

He says if there is a fatality on the road, DOT can call state patrol to the scene to investigate. While state patrol is on scene, DOT could assist with traffic control or road treatments.

The Department of Transportation considers the winter season done on April 15th every year, but Bargfrede says snow plows are always on standby in case an event occurs afterwards. He adds that DOT and state patrol work closely together in the summer as well.

Senior Iowa State Trooper Bob Conrad calls it a great partnership in a “winter of chaos.”

Conrad says state troopers are out on Iowa’s roads 24/7, which means they’re often the first to detect when roads get bad. He says state patrol can call DOT to clear a pathway or add salt in those times of need.

Conrad says anytime there is a winter event, like snow in Iowa, its almost a guarantee DOT and state patrol will be be working as a team.

He says he worries about DOT staff like his own state patrol coworkers.

”Snow plows end up getting hit, I’ve covered way too many of those crashes as well. People don’t move over. They have this white out caused by snow being pushed and the wind blowing, and I always worry about their safety as well,” Conrad said.

DOT also changes the sign boards displayed on roads for state patrol. This lets people know what roads are blocked and for how long helping redirect traffic during accidents. Trooper Conrad said DOT can also assist state patrol with post-accident clean up.

In their 2021 winter review, DOT reports Iowa saw 60 events over the past winter including freezing rain, sleet and snow.

Bargfrede says the DOT used 183,000 tons of salt. That’s about 36 thousand tons more than the five year average.

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