|Dear Friends and Neighbors,|
I'll admit that not long ago, the prospect of snow was very exciting. The 2010 Snowmageddon changed all that, for me at least! With Governor McDonnell declaring a state of emergency in anticipation of a major snow event this weekend, I wanted to provide you with an update on snow preparation efforts.
Also, I have included a link to a great resource where you can find information on issues that are likely to come before the 2011 session of the General Assembly.
Winter Weather Planning
After the historic snows of last year, I sent a letter to the Secretary of Transportation with recommendations from my constituents and asking that VDOT not lose an opportunity to learn from some very important lessons - especially in the areas of planning, contractor oversight, and more effective use of equipment. I was impressed that VDOT took many of these ideas to heart and held not just one, but two follow up summits to outline changes in snow removal operations.
Over the past several months, VDOT has updated each of its 650 snow maps for Northern Virginia, added 600 contractor trucks to its fleet, provided additional snowplow simulator training, and initiated an Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) pilot program. The AVL program will allow VDOT to track which areas a truck has covered and how long it took the truck to cover an area, as well as locate a truck to aide in an emergency response. When snow or ice is forecast, VDOT will deploy trucks loaded with salt and sand to staging areas where they are assigned routes. Crews will pre-treat about 300 lane miles of trouble spots on Interstates 66, 95, 395, and 495 with liquid magnesium chloride. Another 200 lane miles on major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway, Braddock Road, and routes 29, 50, and 123 are pre-treated with salt brine.
The state of emergency allows the Governor to call in additional resources, including the Virginia National Guard. The Virginia Department of Emergency Management is bringing in additional staff to the Virginia Emergency Operations Center and coordinating weather conference calls with local governments.
You can prepare for the storm by having a home emergency kit that includes water, food, a battery-powered radio, blankets, flashlights and extra batteries. More information about winter weather preparedness is available at www.vaemergency.com. If you must travel, check road conditions before leaving home by calling 511 or visiting www.511virginia.org.
And finally, the following is provided by VDOT concerning snow removal operations. VDOT road priorities are as follows:
- Interstates (I-66, I-95/395, I-495)
- High-volume routes (Routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50, Fairfax County Parkway)
- Main thoroughfares in neighborhoods or developments
- Residential streets
Once two inches of snow has accumulated on the roads, crews can begin plowing. This year, trucks will be pre-positioned in subdivisions whenever a forecast calls for two or more inches. In the past, trucks have not deployed until after two inches had accumulated. The main thoroughfares will be repeatedly plowed during a storm. Once the storm has stopped and these roads are clear, crews will work to make residential streets and cul-de-sacs "passable." A neighborhood street is considered passable when a path is drivable, with caution, for an average passenger vehicle. The road will not be cleared curb-to-curb or to bare pavement, and it may remain snow-packed. Chemicals are not typically used in subdivisions, but crews will sand hills, curves, and intersections as needed to provide traction.
Additional VDOT guidance:
- Stay off the roads, let the plows clear the snow, and be patient.
- VDOT does not remove snow from sidewalks. However, there has been additional training for all plow drivers to not shovel onto fire hydrants, sidewalks, driveways, etc.
- For an average 6 inch storm, VDOT's goal is to make one pass of all roads within 48 hours of the end of the storm.
- Do not clear the last couple feet of your driveway until a plow has been through. When shoveling your driveway, shovel the snow to the right as you face the road.
- Avoid parking on the street, but if you have to park on the street, please park on the odd numbered side to leave more room for trucks.
If you have a safety concern regarding a specific roadway or situation, please report it to VDOT email@example.com or 1-800-367-7623 or my office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 310-6752.
2011 General Assembly Issues
The 2011 session of the General Assembly will begin on January 12th. Each year, the Virginia Division of Legislative Services puts together an excellent summary of issues that are likely to be considered during the session. Issues include health care reform, redistricting, higher education reform, Chesapeake Bay protection, and several proposed Constitutional amendments. Please click here for this year's summary - and feel free to share your thoughts.
Wishing you and your family a happy, peaceful, and joyous New Year!