BEND, OR -- The calendar may say winter is more than a month away, but the Oregon Department of Transportation started winter operations, Monday, in the High Desert. ODOT Assistant District Manager Jim Scholtes says traffic cameras are now outfitted with infrared capabilities so road conditions can be assessed at night, even in the most remote locations. "We may only have one truck that’s going to take care of Highway 20 from Brothers, all the way to basically Burns. So, which way does he need to go? So, we’ve got cameras that are up on Horse Ridge, if he has to come back and go west, if it’s snowing there. Or, we have cameras all the way out to Hampton. So, that way, he can make an informed decision on which direction he wants to go." Crews are now scheduled for near round-the-clock coverage, and they've already been out de-icing chronic trouble spots, like Lava Butte, over the past couple weeks.
ODOT has expanded its Incident Response program in Central Oregon, just in time for winter. Incident Response Specialist David Moyer tells KBND News they help drivers stranded on the side of the road, whether from a crash or simply needing help chaining up. It’s work that used to be done by snow plow drivers. "So, it keeps that snow plow on the road longer, so they’re not having to be outside their vehicle. Maybe if it’s a crash, we might be there for two hours. Well, if that snow plow guy is sitting there for two hours, that’s one loop of 12’ of highway that’s not getting plowed."
PHOTOS: (Top) An Incident Response crew assists at a crash on Highway 97 in Bend.
(Right) ODOT Dispatchers monitor traffic cameras around the region.