Who thinks about winter in June? We do, and so should you.

June 7, 2019

This column published as "Talk to Us" in June 2019 issue

June has arrived, and in this issue we take a look at several projects from across the U.S. 

As always, our attempts to balance projects big and small with pre- and even post-construction concerns have rounded out pretty well. However, there is one little bugaboo that only recently presented itself to me and which perhaps bears fairly directly on our mission to you, the reader, in our endeavors to both reflect and champion our industry.

I recently attended the APWA’s annual Snow Conference, held this year in Salt Lake City, Utah, and other than feeling as I always do at this conference—odd for thinking so intently about snow and ice in the face of burgeoning spring climate and the imminent advent of summer—what was hammered home for me more directly than any of the new products or technologies on display, though there were many, was the idea that we at Roads & Bridges have, perhaps, been less than attentive to the municipality portion of our readership.

Every September we run our focus on Winter Maintenance, often as a stand-alone supplement to our September issue of the main magazine. As we do with the main book, we seek a balance in our content coverage. New snow and ice control and fighting products. New methodologies. New areas of research. Where I feel we’ve gone amiss is in our ability to address very directly and specifically the challenges, frustrations, successes, and wants of the municipal operator. The woman or man sitting in the cab of the plow or truck, buzzing with caffeine to stave off the restlessness of it being 2 a.m., trying to both meet a route pattern and schedule and keep quelled a public that in general doesn’t understand or appreciate the value and purpose of a road returned to black vs. a road returned to simple drivability. Wet vs. dry. The importance of friction, and why when you look forward at the weather that’s coming at you through the curtain of the weather you’re already in, it’s sometimes the safer bet not to worry about returning a road to black, but instead consider the other factors that go into smart snow control and the overall plan of a public works department.

My point in all this is that as the R&B editorial staff begins to look forward to our annual focus on winter maintenance and prep, we would like to engage very directly and very specifically the aforementioned challenges, frustrations, successes, and wants of the municipal operator. To that end, I would like to encourage each of you who reads this column who is perhaps not an operator or scheduler to pass it on to someone you know who is, and to encourage them to reach out to me (my email is below) with some details about what it’s like on the job. What it is to be a snowfighter, what matters, and maybe even what, ultimately, does not. Those of you who are operators, tell us a bit about who you are, what you do, and what it’s like. The idea is that we want your testimonials to play a crucial part in this year’s winter coverage.

We editors have a notion of what to give you; give us a notion of what it is to be you. It is a remarkable thing—the radiative effect of reading about shared experience. At its best it can make our industry something akin to community. 

About The Author: Budzynski is managing editor of Roads & Bridges.