ODOT crews are using it on hills and hard-to-reach areas.
Jamason Rohaley joked that all that time he’s been playing video games is finally paying off as he stood on the southbound ramp off Interstate 77 near Mercy Medical Center.
Strapped around his neck was a remote control with joysticks and buttons. Rohaley, a highway technician technician for the Ohio Department of Transportation, used it to skillfully guide a large mower.
ODOT District 4 crews, which includes Stark and Summit counties, began this season using the Bomford Flailbot, a diesel-powered remote-controlled mower that tackles challenging terrain.
Brian Hoover, transportation administrator for Stark County, said the mower allows them to cut vegetation on challenging slopes along area highways. The mower can operate on angles of up to 55 degrees.
Before the introduction of the mower, those slopes would go unattended or four- to five-person crews would spend hours cutting back the brush.
The slope mower can cover twice the area in less time, he said, and it only requires an operator who can safely stand on flat ground and manipulate the control.
"It allows one worker to be out mowing and others can work on road projects and culverts and ditches," Hoover said.
The mower and its operator have spent time along Interstate 77 in recent weeks, often clearing an acre and half daily.
Ray Marsch, District 4 public information officer, said the district has three slope mowers, which cost $70,000 to $80,000 apiece.
The machines are beginning to be used across the state, he said.
In its first year in Stark and Summit, officials are pleased with the increased productivity and safety, Marsch said.
ODOT is responsible for mowing 80,000 acres statewide. Last year, crews spent 211,000 hours mowing 215,000 miles along highways, U.S. Routes and state routes, Marsch said.
If the slopes go unmowed, Hoover said, they can fill up with overgrown vegetation and trees that approach or grow over the highway. Keeping it trimmed deters animals from making homes in the brush and provides good sight lines for motorists.
The Flailbot can tackle vegetation up to 3 inches thick and works on wet or dry land, officials said.
Marsch said representatives from the mower company provided training for the mower users.
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