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MassDOT says it’s confident in staffing levels for snow removal ahead of winter storm

Rock salt was being loaded in large trucks at the Eastern Salt Company in Chelsea for the upcoming winter storm approaching the Greater Boston area.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Massachusetts is preparing for its first major snowstorm of the season, with Governor Baker on Thursday urging residents to keep off the roads as MassDOT said it was confident in its staffing levels.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Baker’s office said residents should use public transportation when possible to avoid driving as forecasters warned that up to 10 inches of snow could hit southeastern Massachusetts by Friday afternoon. All non-emergency state employees have been directed not to report to workplaces on Friday, the statement added.

“Our Administration is closely monitoring this storm and we want everyone to stay off the roads and to take public transit if possible tomorrow,” Baker said in the statement. “In addition, we urge employers to be flexible with workers and plan for difficult conditions on the roads tomorrow. Crews will be out treating roadways and plowing around the clock, and we ask everyone to give them the room they need to clear the roads.”

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for the eastern third of Massachusetts, while the rest of the state is under a winter weather advisory. The southeastern region of the state is expected to be the hardest hit, forecasters said, with 6 to 8 inches anticipated in Boston and its surrounding communities by Friday afternoon.

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The state Department of Transportation expects to deploy approximately 2,500 pieces of equipment for Friday’s storm, according to MassDOT spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard.

Boston Public Schools will be closed Friday due to the expected snowfall. Other districts, including Milton and Medford, also canceled classes in advance of the storm.

State transportation officials are monitoring the weather forecast and reminding motorists to use caution if they’re going to be out on the road and to allow extra time for traveling.

MassDOT has approximately 3,900 pieces of state and vendor equipment available for snow and ice operations, which includes over 1,400 plow and spreader combos, 2,100 plows, and 460 front-end loaders, according to Kristen Pennucci, a spokeswoman for MassDOT.

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Pennucci said no crew shortages are expected. “The department is confident that it has plenty of equipment, staff, and materials,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Globe. “MassDOT typically adds additional vendors and equipment each year to ensure that the winter operations fleet is well equipped.”

Pennucci said MassDOT pays $31.25 per hour for seasonal commercially licensed drivers to operate MassDOT equipment and different rates for vendor-supplied equipment and services (for example, MassDOT pays $190 per hour for a 50,000 GVW truck with an 11-foot plow and 10-cubic-yard spreader). Those interested in applying should visit the MassDOT website at www.mass.gov/snow-and-ice-vendor-information.

MBTA officials are urging customers to visit the MBTA website’s Winter Weather page and follow the T (@MBTA) and commuter rail a(@MBTA_CR) on Twitter to get the latest service updates. Trolley service on the Mattapan line will be suspended Friday morning, and buses will be used to replace rail service.

“While crews will be working hard to keep up with the snowfall, T customers are asked to use caution at bus stops and on train platforms, which may be slippery,” MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in an email. “Riders are reminded that face coverings are required while using public transportation.” Pesaturo said the MBTA will operate non-passenger trains overnight and into early Friday morning to keep the tracks clear and to look for any trees or branches that pose a threat, and tree-cutting crews will be ready to respond if trees or large branches fall on or near tracks. Emergency crews will also be on standby throughout the storm to respond to any issues affecting MBTA track switches or power systems.

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“Heaters for track switches and third rail have been inspected and tested to ensure they function properly,” he said. “Crews from the MBTA Power Department will be keeping a close eye on overhead wires on the Blue and Green Lines, looking for ice buildup. Ice cutters, installed on Blue and Green Line vehicles, are designed to remove ice buildup on catenary wires. Increased staffing will be present throughout the system with snow-fighting equipment pre-deployed in key areas and snow-operating plans currently in place.”

The Registry of Motor Vehicles will post updates about customer service center openings, closures, and road test cancellations to its website, while other executive branch offices will be closed to the public on Friday, the statement from Baker’s office said.

With snow on the way, United States Postal Service officials are also reminding people to keep their walkways, stairs, and areas around mailboxes clear for letter carriers.

David Guiney, the postmaster of Boston, said clearing around your mailbox should be part of your snow removal routine.

“While salting and rubber-backed mats help, we rely on you to clear the snow,” Guiney said in a statement. “If there’s a warm spell, and the melting snow puddles, a quick freeze can make a sidewalk slick again.”

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Residents with roadside mailboxes should keep their mailbox clear of not only snow but also any other obstacles, such as trash cans and other vehicles.

“The carrier needs to get in, and then out, without leaving the vehicle or backing up,” said Guiney. “The area near the mailbox should be cleared in a half-moon shape to give the carrier full visibility. Please watch for slow-moving postal vehicles, carriers on foot, and children that play near mailboxes or snow banks. And don’t zip by neighbors who are clearing mailboxes or collecting their mail. Let’s all stay safe.”


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. Amanda Kaufman can be reached at amanda.kaufman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandakauf1.