PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation is using a new tool to battle winter storms: two high-capacity snowblowers that reduce the time needed to clear highways after heavy snowfall.

These replacement snowblowers, which are deployed where snowfall is heaviest in the Flagstaff and Mogollon Rim areas, have quickly become an important part of ADOT’s snow removal efforts. This includes helping clear multiple highways in recent days and being ready for the next round of snow in Arizona’s high country.

ADOT team members who use these snowblowers remark on their ability to clear roadways much faster than their predecessors. 

“It’s just gone,” said Ed Wilson, who leads ADOT’s Northwest District that includes high-elevations prone to heavy snowfall. “What it means to the public is the roads are going to be open sooner and be safer.”

The snowblowers complement ADOT’s fleet of roughly 200 snowplows. One snowblower is based in Flagstaff, with another near Springerville. The snowblowers are being used on I-40, US 180, US 191, SR 67, SR 260, SR 261 and SR 273, highways that experience some of Arizona’s heaviest snowfall and take crews the longest to clear.

The snowblowers also prevent snow from building up along roadways, which can be the case when using snowplows that push snow onto shoulders. The clear shoulders can promote safety with better sightlines, and by preventing snow from blowing back into a highway. And when snow builds up on shoulders, the snowblowers can efficiently clear the banks of snow to make future cleanup efforts easier.

For motorists, the safety tips for driving near snowblowers are different than with snowplows. While drivers shouldn’t pass snowplows for safety reasons, motorists may need to pass snowblowers because they travel more slowly. ADOT advises that drivers use caution when passing the vehicles and following traffic control devices.