Special patrol responds to Beltline's winter traffic issues - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Special patrol responds to Beltline's winter traffic issues

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MADISON (WKOW) -- With whiteout conditions present during Monday's midday driving on the Beltline, the Dane County Sheriff's Freeway Assistance Team again played a key role in keeping traffic moving, and responding to stranded motorists.

Team leader Deputy Eric Novotny tells 27 News this winter's more frequent bitter cold and regular snowfall have created additional work.

"There've been a lot more slide offs and multi-vehicle crashes," Novotny says.

Novotny expects Monday's tally of calls on the Beltline will be more than twenty, consistent with other winter days of either steady snowfall, or rapidly freezing road surfaces.

A 27 News Crew spent two hours Monday with Novotny in his modified Chevy Sheriff's truck. The truck is topped with an illuminating highway sign to close lanes and direct traffic if need be.

While Novotny responded quickly to a number of stranded cars in Beltline snow drifts, he regrets the travel time of at least one of his responses.

"My response was over twelve minutes. That's not good," Novotny tells 27 News.

The team typically deploys one truck during its patrol hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The freeway assistance team has operated for thirteen years, with annual funding of approximately $240,000 from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Bureau of Traffic Operations. Team Sergeant Krist Boldt says any request for more funds to support more patrols would require extensive traffic data. "There's enough anecdotal evidence to support looking at the statistics," Boldt says.

The freeway assistance team covers the sixteen miles of Beltline, with towing capability.

Novotny says the team's responses and assessments of traffic crashes save 911 call takers at times from dispatching ambulances and other emergency responders.
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