Is TowPlow the answer to Alaska's snow clearing needs?

As Alaska deals with its snowiest winter in recent memory, the technology blog Gizmodo highlights a piece of technology that could have come in handy in the last month, as the Alaska town of Cordova tried to recover from a massive snowstorm that required a special order of snow shovels from Canada and prompted an emergency. Similar conditions in Valdez and complaints of slow snow removal around Anchorage might also have benefitted from the TowPlow, a two lane snow plow that is already in use in other snowy parts of the country.

First unveiled in Missouri in 2005, the TowPlow is already stationed in other U.S. states and Canada, according to Gizmodo. The TowPlow has a steerable trailer attached to a tandem axle plow truck, allowing it to clear two lanes at once. Check out the TowPlow's homepage to see a photo of three plow trucks working together to clear what appears to be a four-lane highway in one sweep. It also has a salt chute on the rear of the truck, though that would come in less handy in Alaska, where the Department of Transportation uses sanding techniques instead of salt.

A 2011 report by the Ohio DOT weighed some of the pros and cons of the TowPlow, and concluded it was a useful tool in clearing roadways following a trial period in a single county.

"Utilizing the TowPlow, the County plowed and treated the roadways more effectively and efficiently -- reducing overall usage of fuel, labor, and material resources while providing a higher level of service and safer pavement conditions for the traveling public," the report said.

There are concerns about the potential for damaging objects on the side of the roadway with the wider plowing area, and obstructing two lanes of traffic where traditional plows obstruct only one. They also have a hefty pricetag, at around $100,000 each.

Check out the video above to see the TowPlow in action, and read a bit more at Gizmodo./alaskadisbach

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