Northern Virginia’s snow removal budget has increased by $20 million for this winter. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will likely need the money as it spent more than double its allotted amount last winter.
VDOT has $70.7 million for snow removal and road maintenance for 2015-16. Last winter’s budget for Northern Virginia was about $50.5 million and $128.5 million was spent, VDOT officials said last week.
The region’s snow budget is part of VDOT’s statewide maintenance budget of approximately $1.5 billion.
“Each year, we strive to improve our winter operations both on the road and behind the scenes,” Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s maintenance engineer for Northern Virginia, said at the agency’s annual snow briefing last week.
Vlacich said high-tech tools, such as a real-time map on VDOT’s website that shows the progress of plows, continue to be a good resource for citizens. This will be VDOT’s third winter with the map.
“Over two years, we’ve seen hits to the site increase while customer calls decrease, as residents check road conditions, locations of our trucks and the progress of our crews,” Vlacich said.
When it snows more than two inches, residents can enter their address at www.vdotplows.org to see whether plowing is underway, completed or not yet started in their neighborhood. They can also track the location of plows in relationship to their house. The site is refreshed every five minutes.
VDOT is responsible for 17,737 miles of road in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties (Arlington County maintains its own secondary roads). About half of those miles are highways or high-volume routes, and half are neighborhood streets. During winter weather in northern Virginia, crews remove snow on both networks concurrently.
In Reston, main roads such as Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston Parkway, Sunset Hills Road, Lawyer Road, Fairfax County Parkway and Glade Drive are VDOT-plowed roads. Most neighborhoods, especially clusters, have private snowplowing contracts. Reston Association is not in charge of plowing Reston roads, though it does plow the 55 miles of paths, and will team with Fairfax County to plow several county-owned paths that will improve pedestrian access this winter.
VDOT is not responsible for sidewalks, even on VDOT-plowed roads, which continues to be a source of discussion and frustration among Reston residents each winter.
VDOT will have more than 3,500 contracted trucks and plows on the available this winter. Special equipment for some trucks will include a jet-powered snow melter for Park-n-Ride lots where snow piles can block spaces; seven high-pressure flush trucks clear snow and ice around the bollards separating the I-495 Express Lanes and regular lanes; two front loaders with 20-foot blades plow interstates during severe storms; speed-activated anti-icing equipment puts the right amount of material on the road.
VDOT file photo