The Virginia Department of Transportation cannot stop the snow from falling, but it can use some new high-tech tools to better plow the 17,737 miles of Northern Virginia roads, keep residents informed and generally prevent accumulating flakes from becoming traffic mayhem.
At its annual Northern Virginia Snow Briefing on Tuesday, VDOT Assistant District Administrator of Maintenance Brancho Vlacich pointed out some of the predictions and tools for 2013-14.
First up: The National Weather Service predicts a “typical” Northern Virginia winter with about 15 inches of snow, he said.
“When it is two to four inches [at a time], our goal is to have all roads passable in 24 hours,” he said. “Six inches, within 48 hours. But after six inches, it presents a major challenge.”
But with a $63 million budget (up from $55 million last winter — $48 million of which was spent), as well as 340,000 tons of salt, 4,000 pieces of equipment and 95,000 tons of sand, the agency is ready, he said.
Also in the VDOT toolbox this winter:
- A pilot program in which six VDOT trucks will have rear-mounted cameras. This will give the agency a real-time look at road conditions and whether roads were adequately plowed.
- A new jet-powered snow melter for park-and-ride lots where snow piles can block multiple parking spaces.
- An automatic vehicle locator system. Every VDOT and contractor truck will have an AVL to allow the agency and consumers to track where and when streets have been plowed. Bookmark www.vdotplows.org and check it often during a snow of more than two inches, said Vlacich. Also helpful: VDOT’s 511virginia.org site for updated traffic info
- New road treatment featuring Chemshield, a new product that takes brine and mixes it with pine sap to better stick to the roads, even in rain.
- A new VDOT mobile weather station – a Dodge Durango fitted with technology to assess road conditions.
Even with the latest in snow treatment and reconnaissance, Vlacich says VDOT still needs the public’s help. He reminds citizens to stay 100 feet behind snowplows, don’t pass plows, stay of roads during storms and telework if possible.
“Traffic is the major challenge for us in snow removal,” he said. “A plow sitting in traffic is ineffective.”
(Photo courtesy of VDOT)