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VDOT Gets Out Snow Equipment

Virginia's transportation department seems determined to avoid a repeat of last week's icy disaster at the Springfield Interchange. Let's wish 'em luck today and later this week, if the forecast holds.

Today, VDOT said in an announcement, it's focusing on the bridges and overpasses, particularly at the Springfield Mixing Bowl. This includes pre-treating the ramps and bridges with 15 trucks with salt and sand and with four liquid magnesium tankers, the department said.

The trucks were stationed ahead of time at the ramps and bridges throughout the interchange, so they could treat the roadways ahead of any snow or ice. This will be the standard procedure for all future snow and ice storms, VDOT said.

Across its areas of responsibility in Northern Virginia, VDOT is sending out 722 salt and sand trucks. Besides the 114 trucks covering the interstates, there will be 317 trucks in Fairfax County, 101 trucks in Loudoun County and 190 trucks in Prince William County.

This may just be a test for the next wintry system that is likely to move in Thursday night and Friday. Get the latest from the Capital Weather Gang blog.

Last week, drivers know, there were problems with icy roads all across the Washington region, but Springfield stood out, because of the volume of traffic it handles and because of its 50 bridges. VDOT was unprepared, showing it still must learn how to handle this huge new people-moving machine it has created.

This writer also talks about what we can do to help ourselves.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
The roads will be icy again very soon it appears. The promised solutions will look better, this once, until the last lesson is once more forgotten.

Why not tell people that four real snow/ice tires on a two-wheel drive sedan is better than all the 4x4 SUVs with regular tires or worse still "All Seeze-On" tires? Add in all this insane hastiness on the dry, the wet, or the slick roads and the commute is going to get worse no matter how many lanes are added to increase the "waiting room" that our roads have become.

As for the Severn River Bridge and the Springfield Interchange, many spots in Europe that have icing problems come equipped with barrels of abrasives and ice melting chemicals along with a scoop ... self help in a few minutes of work or hours parked looking for electronic sign salvation from VDOT, DDOT or MDOT!
Kurt Thiel
Arlington

I've seen such emergency barrels in Europe and also, I recall, out in the western states. But around here, I fear we'd see a bunch of drivers getting out of their vehicles and sliding across a bridge or ramp as they tried to reach the chemicals. We could lose more drivers than we save in such a congested area. What's your advice?

By Robert Thomson  |  February 20, 2008; 1:34 PM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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