Starting this winter storm season, snowploughs operating on some Maine Interstate highways will be using flashing green lights to improve their visibility and aid the safety of maintenance crews and other road users.
The changes are a result of a bill passed during the First Regular Session of the 129th Legislature (LD 1555) that amended the section in Maine law pertaining to emergency and auxiliary lights to allow the use of white and green lights, in addition to the amber lights already permitted under state law. The new flashing green lights are now permitted on Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA), Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT), and municipal vehicles, including snowploughs. When poor visibility makes driving more hazardous, flashing or oscillating green lights will alert motorists to drive with caution when approaching snowploughs. Green is more visible to the human eye, so it stands out better during both snowstorms and bright sunlight. This means that drivers will be able to see snowploughs from farther away, especially during heavy snowstorms.
Initially, 17 of MTA’s fleet of 77 trucks on the road this winter will be equipped with the green lights. These are new trucks that are replacing trucks that average 15 years of service with thousands of miles of winter snow clearance. In addition to the green lights, these new trucks will be painted green, with yellow ploughs rather than orange, and will have larger arrow boards on the back. Some of the lights on the back of the truck are also equipped with a defroster to help keep them clear of clinging snow and ice. In the future, the MTA plans to retrofit some of the existing fleet with the new lighting package. As well as the trucks operating on the Turnpike (I-95), the MaineDOT will be adding green lights to their ploughs on I-295.
In addition to the truck changes, a different method will be used for ploughing in narrow construction zones, primarily through the Portland area (from Mile 44 through the work zone at Warren Avenue bridge) and at the York toll plaza project. Through these areas, echelon ploughing will occur. Unlike most of the Turnpike where snowploughs can spread out to let other traffic move by, they will be ploughing side-by-side through the work zones and motorists will not be able to pass the vehicles.
“Our goal with using green lights is to help drivers see and notice the maintenance vehicles, even during whiteout or low visibility conditions,” explained Erin Courtney, MTA’s public outreach manager. “Better visibility means safer roads for both snowplough operators and motorists. The echelon ploughing method is a break from our typical practice, but with so many construction zones so narrowly spaced, this will improve safety for both our plough drivers and the traveling public. Please do not try to pass a plough when traveling through the Portland area.”