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Highway departments ready for snow fight

Airports | Amtrak | Buses | Capital Weather Gang | D.C. snow emergency | Plowing plans | Rails | Snow removal | Live traffic

Drivers across the D.C. region will see highway crews out pre-treating the roadways in anticipation of the storm. They do that up to 48 hours ahead of a storm, and the chemicals or salt brine break the bond between the road surface and snow or ice once it starts falling. Here are some updates from the highway departments.

Each snow team, operated either directly by the Maryland State Highway Administration or under contract, is assigned to plow and salt 20 to 25 miles along interstate, U.S. or state numbered routes, the SHA says. It can take a plow driver up to an hour and a half to complete a route, including reloading salt. During a storm, it might appear that a route has not been plowed or treated with salt because of heavy snowfall. (Capital Beltway drivers saw that during Saturday's snow, even though the trucks were out.)

Snow plows and plow trains (snow plows in tandem) require a large area to operate safely. Don't pass the trains. First of all, it's not safe. Second, the untreated roadway is ahead of the plows, the safer roadway is behind them.

On Thursday, crews are pre-treating trouble spots on Interstates 66, 95, 395, and 95 -- including bridges and ramps prone to freezing, such as the Springfield Interchange, I-66 at Route 29 in Gainesville and the Capital Beltway interchange at Route 1 -- with liquid magnesium chloride. Other major roads, such as the Fairfax County Parkway and routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50 and 123, are being pre-treated with salt brine. (This has been standard procedure for VDOT since its anti-icing program became more aggressive after the Springfield interchange froze over in winter 2008.)

By noon Friday, VDOT's entire Northern Virginia fleet of more than 1,800 trucks will be in position to treat roads throughout Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. (That's the part of Northern Virginia that VDOT is responsible for.)

Weekend HOV lanes
Through Saturday evening, the I-95/395 high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes will remain open in the southbound direction. The HOV lanes will be closed for snow removal on Sunday.

Advice to drivers
The highway departments are unanimous on this: During this snowstorm, don't be a driver. Other than that:

  • Make plans now for dealing with Friday afternoon. VDOT says it expects five inches or more on the ground by Friday afternoon rush hour alone, with wind gusts up to 30 mph in the evening. Visibility will decline sharply and driving will become increasingly hazardous.

  • While we always joke about the run on toilet paper in advance of any storm, you really don't want to be getting in your car Friday afternoon and Saturday for anything but an emergency. Get the stuff you need now.

  • If there's a day you can telework, Friday should be that day.

Road Essentials:  Incident Map  |  Traffic Cams   |   Key Routes

By Robert Thomson  |  February 4, 2010; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Driving , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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