On The Road's 'March Madness' theme saw Joe to the Vineland Public Works. During the month, they utilize almost everything in their skill set to tackle the changing of seasons.
March’s tug of war between the fading winter and the rising spring may send some people spinning.
But for local public works departments, the change of seasons means using everything they know to tackle whatever conditions come their way.
The drastic swings in temperature mean road crews need to be prepared for whatever weather heads their way.
“One day it could be in the high 60s. We could be golfing. Then, the next three days, you have a buildup of snow that turns to ice,” said Brian Dunn, general road supervisor and 40-plus-year employee of the Vineland DPW.
March’s potential fury is echoed throughout the city.
“Don’t let your guard down, just make sure the trucks are safe,” Dunn told his crews during the month.
Vineland has 1,014 lane miles in the city, New Jersey’s largest by area. Lane miles account not just for the road you drive on, but each lane and shoulder as well. In charge of the $2.5 million road budget, Dunn ensures motorists and pedestrians are safe, whether it’s by filling potholes or plowing.
At Atlantic City International Airport, temperatures have spanned from 2 to 87 degrees during March throughout its recorded history (since 1943). Average low temperatures start in the upper 20s but wind up in the upper 30s. In winter 2018, 9.6 inches of snow fell at the airport, the fifth highest for any March in recorded history.
“I would say it’s probably one of our more challenging months, sometimes with late-season snow events; frequent rain events which raise flooding/ponding concerns; high winds that may spread debris and litter along the roadways; and potholes that continue to develop with temperature fluctuations,” said Greg Brookins, head of the Atlantic County Department of Public Works.
This past March was much tamer than last year’s, when four nor’easters, multiple snow events that required salting and/or plowing, and numerous coastal flooding events wore down the state.
“Many times we face lingering snow events in March, but fortunately not so much this year,” Brookins said.
Still, Vineland officials noted that pothole activity was high this past March. Vineland public works Superintendent Mark Gugliemi said the city experienced three “thaws,” which caused them to use plenty of patches to keep vehicles from blowing out a tire or sustaining damage.
The wettest year on record and a soggier than average start to 2019 are still not enough to …
“A lot of people have water in their basements. We have places where the residents are pumping water down the gutters,” Dunn said.
He noted that this water spills out onto the roads. When temperatures drop below freezing, as they inevitably do during March, road crews are out there salting those areas to keep people safe.
“The water in many cases simply has nowhere to go until we get a break between rain events and the ground has a chance to dry out a bit. In the meantime, we continue to make improvements where possible,” Brookins said.