In the 608: The original ‘Beltline Bob’ to retire Thursday

Thumbnail Deputy Eric Novotny

MADISON, Wis. – He typically responds to around sixteen to twenty incidents during an eight-hour shift, but today the original ‘Beltline Bob’ will make his final pass along the beltline and head right into a well-deserved retirement.

It’s estimated that ‘Beltline Bob’ has put on about a million miles since the Freeway Service Team started the Roadside Assistance Program back in 2001.

The man behind the wheel of the big yellow rig you see every morning is actually named Eric Novotny. He’s been a deputy with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, spending the last two decades watching over the beltline.

“I treated this like my roadway. I didn’t want anything bad to happen on my watch,” Deputy Novotny told News 3 Now. “It sounds pretentious and everything I know, but I worked here every day. I kind of grew used to it, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to it.”

The ‘Beltline Bob’ reference, according to Deputy Novotny, started after a dispatcher blurted it out during a stressful call, a reporter heard it over the scanner, and well, that name stuck.

As you can probably imagine, Deputy Novotny’s really seen it all over the years, from the usual crashes, backups and different weather conditions, but one in particular stands out from June of 2007, when a semi-truck spilled onions and brine after stopping too fast in a construction zone. That actually happened two years in a row.

“Things you wouldn’t even think about occur on this roadway,” Deputy Novotny explained. “We were blocking lanes traffic for over four hours because we couldn’t get the brine off the roadway. It was so slippery.”

All the crazy memories aside, Deputy Novotny says he’s ready to drive the beltline like the rest of us and hand off the ‘Beltline Bob’ name to the next generation.

“I hope I’ve prepared myself to say that yes it is time to hand the reins over to somebody else, but yeah I’m going to miss it,” Deputy Novotny added.

Deputy Novotny is already teaching part-time at Madison College at their academy, along with teaching traffic incident management for the Department of Transportation.

The county will be holding a celebration for his retirement on Friday. The search is on for his replacement.