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WINTER WARRIORS REV UP
ALL AROUND THE COUNTY, MUNICIPALITIES GET EQUIPMENT READY FOR BAD TIMES AHEAD, INCLUDING POURING SALT TO EASE THE PAIN

No one knows when the region's first substantial snowfall will come this winter, but when it does, bigger trucks, new spreaders and stronger icing fighting substances will follow.

Residents of Amherst and Cheektowaga will see new trucks that highway supervisors say should help clear and remove snow faster.

Buffalo residents might notice more-efficient salt spreaders that will cover the road better while cutting down on wasted salt.

And motorists in Tonawanda will be driving on roads that should be less slippery since the town is adding a chemical to the salt that should help it stick to the pavement better.

Area highway superintendents have a few new wrinkles ready for the snow-covered roads motorists will inevitably encounter, everything from expensive pieces of equipment to the use of global positioning systems, known as GPS, to map more efficient plow routes.

The GPS software is being used by Amherst Highway Superintendent Bob Anderson to check the mileage on all plow routes and to see if efficiencies can be found.

"We will make some changes this year," he said. "We're looking at a situation where we can improve . . . something we may have overlooked before."

The big news in Amherst, though, is a fleet of new trucks, eight six-wheel plows, costing about $110,000 each, that Anderson said will save the town money in the long run.

"By using brand-new vehicles, there will be fewer breakdowns and less overtime," he said.

The new plows, which are expected to arrive within the next few weeks, will also allow the department to have better spares, Anderson said.

"When we need something, we'll be able to start one up and it will ge a good spare," he said. "Right now, we have some real junk (spares), quite honestly."

Buffalo's big change this year is the purchase of new salt spreaders that city Public Works Commissioner Joseph Giambra said should cut salt use by 20 percent. Last year, the city used 40,500 tons of road salt, at a cost of about $86,000.

"Whether you were on a street 60 feet wide or 30 feet wide, you were using the same amount of salt," Giambra said of the old spreaders. "This (the new spreaders) will help us regulate the flow."

The city has purchased three of the new electronic spreaders and hopes to buy an additional 40 so that each truck has one. Giambra said the $172,000 expenditure should pay for itself by the end of the first year.

The new spreaders have special "blast buttons" to dispense more salt where it's needed -- and controls that cut the flow faster when a truck idles at a stop light.

The city will use a new additive to the road salt that officials think will produce better results.

Several other municipalities have started adding chemicals, such as calcium chloride or magnesium chloride, to their salt.

Bradley Rowles, Town of Tonawanda highway superintendent, said he's changed additives and is now using magnesium chloride. The chemical is mixed with the salt as it's being applied, helping the salt stick to the asphalt better.

"It turns into a brine, which is what you want," he said. "Calcium chloride is a great product, but it's highly corrosive. Magnesium chloride is a lot less corrosive, and it has more retention."

Rowles said he's also taking advantage of low salt prices.

"We typically have 1,000 to 1,200 tons (on hand)," he said. "I'm going to keep 2,000 to 2,200 tons in stock. That gives me about four or five days coverage, even in a good storm, without running low."

Gerard J. Sentz, Erie County deputy highway commissioner, said the county is experimenting with a salt additive "that makes the salt sticky." The additive will be used only on roads in one of the department's districts, and only when the temperatures are very low, he said.

Cheektowaga also has new heavy equipment, three tandem plow trucks that will replace smaller trucks.

"The tandems haul more salt," said Larry Kowal, deputy highway superintendent. "We can put them up more north, away from the central shop, which means less trips back to the shop for salt."

The new trucks also will be helpful on those days when there is a lull in the plowing and salting, he said. The town will be able to haul away more snow from the cul-de-sacs where it is piled.

Orchard Park is purchasing two new plow trucks, but Highway Superintendent Ron Geitter said they probably won't be delivered until late winter. "They're replacing two plow trucks that are now 15 years old," he said.

The Town of Hamburg has purchased a push box, a type of plow that will help push snow banks further back from the road. Highway Superintendent Jim Connolly sees two benefits.

"It will allow for better visibility (for drivers) but also, when we come back to plow again, the snow will go into the space we just created (with the push box)," he said.

News Staff Reporter Brian Meyer also contributed to this article.

e-mail: jbonfatti@buffnews.com