High tech street sweeper arrives in Westport: street striping next

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For its Westport debut, the town's brand new Elgin Broom Bear 4 — as good as it gets with street sweepers — set a course south from the Highway Department toward the harbor.

"Wow — amazing," said Highway Surveyor Chris Gonsalves.

"We doubled our footage — more than doubled it," he said.

When it wasn't broken down, the town's old sweeper crept along at about 10 mph. "So to get to the harbor, 45 minutes to an hour anyway," Mr. Gonsalves said.

Not only does the Broom Bear go faster, it clears a wide 12-foot swath which means it can clear most roads side-to-side in two passes instead of three or four passes with the old sweeper.

And when it finally fills up, it's able to hoist its load and dump it — into another truck if it's far from the Highway Department yard. The old one had to turn around and head for home — still at 10 mph.

"It saves us bunches of time," Mr. Gonsalves said, a good thing since Westport has 165 miles of roadway, 134 miles of which are the town's responsibility to keep swept.

On Monday, the Broom Bear was in for warranty adjustments but when it gets back in a few days it will head back to the harbor area.

The Highway Department is preparing to stripe the roads there and has spent recent days cutting back weeds to the edge of the pavement. The last step before line painting will be to give the roads a final sweeping.

Many other roads are also long overdue for striping, Mr. Gonsalves said, and he is working on that project with the Police Department.

"It helps us in lots of ways," not just cleaning up winter's sand, Mr. Gonsalves said.

Such street sweepers come with a big price tag — this one cost $223,000. But money for the purchase came from state Chapter 90 funds so the machine essentially comes at no cost to Westport.

The old machine, now sitting in the Highway Department yard, was really meant for tight city streets which require a tight turning radius. ""But it's not so good for the long roads we have here," Mr. Gonsalves said. "This is just what we needed."

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.