Whether it is a winter for the record books or a fairly mild season, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says it is ready for snow removal in 2014-15 — even though the agency has budgeted less money than last year.
This year’s budget is $52 million, VDOT said at its annual Northern Virginia snow briefing on Tuesday. Last year, the budget was $63 million, but the agency spent nearly $152 million as 52 inches of show — more than double the average 22 inches — fell here.
VDOT maintenance engineer Branco Vlacich says that number doesn’t mean much as a new way of tracking state labor costs makes the figure lower, but the overall funds available for snow removal are about the same as last winter.
“Snow is an emergency, just as a tornado or hurricane would be an emergency,” he said. “The resources will be available.”
National Weather Service Meteorologist Chris Strong said this winter is expected to be fairly typical “but we will ensure readiness for a big storm.”
VDOT will be ready too, though Vlacich and Strong pointed out that last season’s snows were not from one big storm. They were from many small- to medium-sized snow events that happened well into March.
VDOT has more then 4,000 trucks; 340,000 tons of salt; 95,000 tons of sand; and 576,000 gallons of liquid ready to go, says Vlacich. In Northern Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties), VDOT is responsible for nearly 18,000 miles of road.
Also in the fleet: A jet-powered snow melter for Park-n-Ride lots where snow can block parking spaces; seven high-pressure flush trucks that will be used on I-495 Express lanes; a truck-mounted weather camera; two large front loaders to move snow during severe storms; and six-truck mounted cameras to show live road conditions.
“Our goal is to clear streets within 24 hours after 2 to 4 inches have fallen, and after 48 hours if 6 inches or more have fallen,” said Vlacich. “The key to making it all work is regional cooperation. Last winter, during snow events, schools, the government and Metro all shut down. That let us clear the roads in 24 hours. One particular challenge we have in Northern Virginia is many cul-de-sacs and subdivisions. Those take a long time.”
VDOT will be testing a no-salt area around Chantilly this winter. Those roads will be treated with brine. VDOT will measure the effectiveness of this method, which has been successful in some Western states. It could eventually reduce the need for salt.
Photo: VDOT truck at work/Courtesy of VDOT