L’ANSE — A new road maintenance innovation is gaining traction in the Upper Peninsula and across the state.
The “Superior Stick” is allowing winter maintenance technicians at the Michigan Department of Transportation to realize the full potential of another piece of equipment – the wing plow. The wing plow allows a standard plow truck to clear an additional four to five feet on each pass, but there was one big problem with its adoption in some areas.
“The problem with that was it wasn’t visible enough, so we were prohibited from using it on our US and M routes in the State of Michigan, which meant that where we needed it the most, we couldn’t use it, which was in passing lanes, turn lanes, intersections, things like that,” Dault added.
So the workers at the MDOT L’Anse Maintenance Facility – including Tom Deschaine and Jason Rinkinen – got to work finding a solution.
“We needed it, so necessity is the mother of invention,” said MDOT Transportation Maintenance Specialist John Dault. “We put our heads together and decided we needed to do something.”
The system is simple – a stick adorned with lights is affixed with a flexible attachment to the wing plow’s end, allowing it to move with the blade while continuing to provide high visibility for motorists. Other lighting systems are available for wing plows, but they often require more maintenance.
“The unique part about it is it’s very visible out there,” said Dault. “It has like zero moving parts. The snow [doesn’t] stick to it. It just does its job super well, and it’s very effective, efficient, [and] low maintenance.”
A local company, Johnson and Berry Manufacturing, is currently producing the sticks, but the concept is available to everyone.
“We’re not in the business of making Superior Sticks. We’re in the business of maintaining roads,” Dault added. “[If] anybody wants to make them or whatever, go for it.”