VDOT Snow Meeting – What to Expect this Winter

Yesterday the Virginia Department of Transportation held their 2011 Snow Meeting in preparation for the upcoming winter season. VDOT has almost 3,400 pieces of equipment (their own and from contractors) available for snow and ice removal in northern Virginia. For northern Virginia alone, VDOT has allotted a $55 million budget for the winter season. However, in our area, there are 17,679 lane miles of roadway. That makes for a lot of ground to cover when it comes time to start plowing!

At yesterday’s meeting, VDOT officials discussed their Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) program that was introduced last year. Since 95% of plow trucks and crews are contracted by VDOT, the AVL program allows VDOT to better monitor the locations of contracted ice trucks to improve the dispatching of these trucks to priority areas. About a third of the plow trucks are equipped with this technology and VDOT has incentives to encourage other trucks and contractors to adopt the program. This year, AVL’s technology will be made accessible to the public on VDOT’s website, allowing citizens to know the progress of plow trucks in their area. However, since this is a new feature, there are sure to be a few kinks. I’ll provide more information on how to access this site when I receive it.

VDOT has two separate snow removal teams in place. One dedicated solely to high volume roads such as Interstates, the Fairfax County Parkway, Route 1, etc. and another team for subdivisions consisting of main roads through neighborhoods and residential streets. Highest traffic volumes areas will be cleared first to ensure expediency in the plowing process. With this system, VDOT plans to be able to clear all roads with 2-4 inches of snow in 24 hours (4-6 inches in 48 hours, etc).

This winter season is expected to be cooler and dryer than previous winters, but the County has to be prepared for anything. A slight mistake in prediction can lead to a high impact weather event, and VDOT wants to make sure this is avoided.

To make the snow removal process easier, VDOT has a few recommendations and reminders for local citizens.

  1. When shoveling your own sidewalk/driveway, leave at least 5 feet of snow from the curb until after the plow has passed through.
  2. Park your car on the odd numbered side of the street or in driveways. If the truck can’t pass down your road, they won’t plow it, so give it some room!
  3. Stay off the road if there are reports of a storm! One of the biggest things to slow down the plowing process is dealing with abandoned cars on the side of the road. Staying at home eliminates this problem!
  4. Remember that it is harder for crews to plow packed snow and especially ice. Don’t expect to be able to see black pavement once the plow comes through. The goal is to make all roads passable, not clear them completely of snow.

I hope this will be an eventful winter in terms of weather, but it is necessary to be prepared for any storm that comes our way. I’ll try to keep you all well-informed of storm updates throughout the winter. Remember you can always find more information on www.virginiadot.org and www.511virginia.org.

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