When there’s snow to remove from interchanges, bridge decks and other tight spots along sides of the road — and there has been a lot of it this year — Herman is the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s go-to-guy. It’s been that way for more than 50 years.

Herman is a truck mounted snowblower that, just like an old Timex watch, takes a licking and keeps on ticking. The powerful snowblower obtained in 1968 is one of the oldest pieces of equipment in MnDOT’s arsenal of snow fighting machines, and one of the most dependable too, said Joe Groshens, supervisor of MnDOT’s Spring Lake Park truck station.

“He’s our go-to guy,” Groshens said. “He gets out there and gets the job done.”

Used primarily across the north metro for cleanup, Herman has had a lot of jobs lately. The blower recently churned through crusty snowbanks encroaching on travel lanes in the Interstate 35W/Hwy. 36 interchange in Roseville with ease. The snow was put in trucks and hauled away. Snow piles on the Hwy. 610 bridge over the Mississippi River in Coon Rapids were no match either. The blower was even sent to Owatonna last week to blast through5-foot snowdrifts and help get I-35 reopened after a blizzard forced MnDOT to close the freeway for the better part of two days.

Rarely on the disabled list, Herman has logged more than 47,400 miles over the years. A meter tracking the number of hours the engine has run in February ticked over the 1,170-mark. He’s one of MnDOT’s 16 truck mounted Sno-Go machines uses to clear away snow, and maybe the most reliable of the bunch. Four years ago, Herman was the only one that made it through the season without a breakdown, Groshens said.

Another time Herman swallowed a chunk of concrete that had broken off a retaining wall and fallen in a snowbank. That should have stopped Herman cold. But true to form, he passed it through the auger and out the chute.

“It made a lot of noise, but he spit it out and just kept going,” Groshens said.

Lore has it that the mighty steel machine earned the nickname “Herman” because his augers and blades resemble a big mouth and teeth, said Sue Roe, a MnDOT spokeswoman. Herman takes two operators, one to drive the truck and one to operate the chute. And there’s no job too big for him.

“That’s why we keep him around,” Groshens said. “He’s still here.”

At least for the rest of this winter. Word is that Herman is heading to the auction block this summer.

No traffic delays with A-line

We’ve heard about the A-line’s success in ridership, up 2 percent last year to 1.6 million rides. The rapid bus line is a bright spot for Metro Transit at a time when fewer people overall are riding the bus.

A-line buses stop in traffic lanes when picking up and dropping off passengers on Snelling Avenue. University of Minnesota researcher Alireza Khani wanted to know if that slowed traffic flow.

He set up cameras at Snelling and University avenues to capture a month’s worth of video. Khani found buses blocked a lane for an average of 30 seconds when stopped at stations near the intersection. Even with a lane blocked, A-line buses don’t “have a significant impact on traffic in the corridor,” he said last week in presenting his findings to the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.


Follow news about traffic and commuting at The Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.