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Md. legislators protest snow response

Whether they had a tough time getting to work or never made it out of their neighborhoods in the first place, many people looked for ways to effectively vent their anger about the pace of the storm cleanup.

I heard from travelers and would-be travelers everywhere, so I offer what follows only as an example.

Residents in many Montgomery County neighborhoods said they hadn't seen a plow or considered the plowing ineffective. Montgomery County's snow line was overwhelmed with phone calls. Officials asked people to hold off on calling.

Others said the main roads, handled by the State Highway Administration, were barely passable. That's what General Assembly members representing the 16th Legislative District in Montgomery County heard about, and they wrote a letter of protest to State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen.

Here's a portion of the letter signed by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Del. William A. Bronrott, Del. C. William Frick and Del. Susan C. Lee of the 16th Legislative District, which includes Bethesda, Glen Echo and Cabin John and parts of Chevy Chase, Kensington, Potomac, and Rockville.

Dear Mr. Pedersen:
On behalf of our beleaguered constituents, we are writing to express their frustration and disappointment with the current status of snow removal operations in our district. Four days after this storm, the condition of major arteries such as Wisconsin Avenue, Bradley Boulevard and River Road are dangerous and, in some cases, nearly impassable. We understand that this was a storm of epic proportions, however, our constituents deserve better driving conditions on state-owned roads.

With another major storm forecast for our region, we are concerned that our constituents will be facing even more treacherous conditions on these state roadways. We ask that you make these and our other major state arteries a priority in the next 24 hours.

I understand their concern. It's well-placed. It has been difficult and sometimes treacherous to travel on those roads since the storm ended, and it probably will be again over the next day. But I think they're moving too quickly past the "epic proportions" part in their description of the storm. This storm would have been a knock-down blow in any urban area of this country.

I asked SHA for a response to the letter, and Pedersen made these points in a statement:

This was a historic storm with historic challenges.

Following the massive storm, which produced as much as 35-40 inches in some areas, the temperatures plummeted and the snow turned to thick ice and snow pack. Given the magnitude of this storm, it is unrealistic to expect bare pavement in every area or that snow could be cleared from every lane.

SHA crews worked tirelessly the past five days, sleeping a few hours in their trucks as they pushed back as much snow as possible. Every state highway has had snow plowed multiple times during and after the storm.

Eventually, the snow plows could not push the thick ice and snow pack, and SHA had to use front end loaders and graders, some brought in from as far away as New York, to chop up the ice pack. In some cases, snow has had to be trucked away one dump truck at a time.

Crews spent a good deal of the weekend and Monday working around and rescuing stranded motorists who never should have gone out during the storm.

We appreciate motorists' patience as we continue clean up from a storm that produced up to three feet of snow and as we prepare for a second massive winter storm.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 9, 2010; 5:10 PM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm  
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Next: Metrorail likely underground Wed.


For all of the workers helping to clear the snow and ice from all roads, thank you. Despite the amount of whining that goes on in this region, there are those of us who still have an unfettered connection to reality and who understand humans can only do so much in the face of mother nature. I am grateful for each of you, even though my own cul de sac has deep, bone-jarring ruts to navigate and driving on many major roads is a white-knuckle affair.

It is after storms like this that we see the true nature of people in this area. To say their heads are stuck up their butts is an understatement. If you want something cleared, grab a shovel and get to work. My drive and my neighbor's drive are clear, albeit akin to snow canyons, thanks to hard work, not whining and complaining. All three of our vehicles (two of them SUVs) were cleared of snow from top to bottom by, again, hard work and a shovel. And I'm 23 weeks pregnant to boot. What's your excuse?

Bout ready to walk to the end of the street and clear some sidewalks that the boarding house owners there can't be bothered to touch to get pedestrians out of the road. And the fire hydrant too, that is not on my property, but needs cleared nonetheless, because the people who are responsible for it are just too lazy to do anything about it. My house will not burn down without a fight. How can I justify to my children "it wasn't my responsibility" when the fire trucks cannot access the hydrant to save our home or a pedestrian is unnecessarily splattered on the road because the fools who have a sidewalk adjacent to their property could not be bothered to clear even a single path? Every one of us is responsible for these things, as part of a community. Now quit'cher bit chin' and get to work or SHUT IT!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | February 9, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I was in Minnesota for the Halloween blizzard of 1992, which was the most snow to ever hit the Twin Cities. It totally shut the city down from Thursday evening through the weekend, and things were off for a long while after that.

Snowfall totals? 28"

We need to have perspective here. We couldn't afford to maintain the staff and equipment needed to deal with this sort of storm. The Halloween storm burned through almost the entire snow removal budget of Minnesotan cities, and it snows there for six months of the year.

It just doesn't snow enough here to justify that level of preparedness for snow removal. If a smaller storm can shut down Minnesota (where they DO need to be ready to clear all the streets on a regular basis), we should not complain too much.

Sometimes, God or nature or whoever just tells us to sit down and relax, because we don't control the whole world. Our governments and utilities are overwhelmed, and we should offer our respect and support to all the individuals who are trying to get the job done in the face of really extraordinary circumstances, and compassion for the mistakes they might make in the face of severe exhaustion.

Keep up the good work y'all.

Posted by: andrewmcleod | February 9, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock: The problem is that in much of suburban Maryland, the state roads are in WORSE condition than the county or municipal roads.

For example, the Maryland SHA is responsible for 38th Street between Hamilton Street and the Brentwood city limits. Brentwood is responsible for the next section, which is a lot clearer (still bad, but not as bad.)

Clearing these streets is apparently possible, because the municipal governments are doing it.

Posted by: stuckman | February 9, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Just another failure of government.

They will suck taxpayers dry of money and make excuses for frick ups.

Posted by: mdpilot | February 9, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree with CyanSquirrel and andrewmcleod: They are doing the best they can with the resources they have. This is a huge storm (even by Buffalo standards), and it is not easy to clean up all this snow.

stuckman: The state has called in reinforcements (a friend of mine from Buffalo is here), but it is still treacherous. The state has more ground to cover than any of the counties. Plus I'd like to point out that in my area, the county roads are way worse than the state roads.

mdpilot: What are you doing to help?

Posted by: clougen | February 9, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

I wish the politicians would start actually helping with situations instead of giving in to the loudest, angriest, and often stupidest voices all the time. Of course its frustrating when your street is impassable and the next street over is clear, but this was an unprecedented event. As of right now if one more inch of snow falls, then the last time we had so much snow in one season will be 1899, long before most of these cities and towns were much more than giant farms or woodlands with very few paved roads. Considering the meager resources we have allowed to be allocated, they are doing an excellent job above and beyond the call of duty. The people complaining are probably the same ones that lobbied for lower snow removal budgets the last few years because they hate contributing to anything that doesn't benefit them in the (very) short term. It really is like dealing with selfish little children, and the more they have their way the worse it will get. Its time that we elected people who actually understand the problems people face, that have the ability to figure out what to do to fix them, and most importantly aren't afraid to act when it is in the best interest of the people they serve despite how politically charged the issue might be. Instead most of them just pay lip service to the reality-impaired, like the politicians that signed this petition, because they make the most noise. The government does the best job it can considering the constant attacks by people who don't really comprehend what is involved in running a government, and who are reluctant to part with a single penny that doesn't immediately give them two in return.

Posted by: icemachine79 | February 9, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

To andrewmcleod:

You apparently spent the weekend in the Cities during the Halloween blizzard of '92. Sorry you had a bad time! Over a 3-day period, in constant subzero temperatures and winds gusting up to 50 mph, 28" fell. Drifts ran upwards of 15 ft. And when snow drifts constantly, as you appear to have noticed, it's difficult to clear.

Last Friday, an average of 24" fell almost straight down on the DC area. No winds. No drifts of any significance. Overnight lows were in the high single digits, but daytime highs were around 32.

These two events are simply incomparable.

To clougen:

When you ask mdpilot "What are you doing to help?" I'm presuming you mean other than paying taxes for government services. And if mdpilot is from Montgomery County, then I'll presume you mean paying enough in taxes to subsidize the rest of the state's government services.

Posted by: dsk36 | February 9, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the above posters who said it best...this is a storm of historic proportions. And yet most of what I hear is whining by people that, "something wasn't done and its not my responsibility to do it, wah wah wah". Its quite clear that the government doesn't have the resources immediately available to deal with this type of storm. So you can either depend on the government, or you can take matters into your own hands. I've heard lots of heroic stories of people shoveling their own streets with armies of people armed with shovels and snow blowers. That's leadership, and the type of person willing to organize that is the type of person who will succeed in life...people who whine that the government can't help them fast enough and refuse to even try something on their own are the one's who will not succeed.

Now we as a region have a choice. We can invest a lot of money into snow removal equipment so we can get plowed out faster next time. Or we can continue with status quo. The former might require a ta increase though. The later means you will be stuck inside your neighborhood the next time this happens.

Posted by: thetan | February 9, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

To MdPilot & thetan...

Exactly how much of an investment would you have the county/state make in equipment that they will use about once a decade? Truth is neither of you have any idea what this equipment costs.

Get a clue and then figure out either what to cut or how much of a tax increase you want. OTOH, maybe you simply want goods and services to materialize out of thin air.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | February 9, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Dr Gridlock,
Thanks for updating your blogs.We are staying at Montgomery county and the sad part is that..PEPCO is not giving any restoration times for thousands of residents still without power. But adding misery to BAD roads and broken signal lights are the Automated Traffic red light and speed cameras which are busy ticketing. Thanks to our tax dollars they have better backup systems then our traffic lights and higher priority for power restoration then our suffering residents.

Posted by: kallims | February 9, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Any information on how much those legislators who wrote to complain funded for snow removal? Could have a bearing on their credibility, that's all. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: treetopflyer | February 9, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Instead of having drivers sleep in their vehicles why doesn't SHA have more CDL-certified plow drivers? Shift your workforce to address an emergency and that takes forward thinking.

Posted by: chesapeaketerp | February 9, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

mikecatcher...I said the region has a choice. Either cough up more money in taxes, or accept the fact that the snow removal is going to be painfully slow. Based on the nonstop complaints I'm hearing, it doesn't seem that we are willing to accept the fact that snow removal is painfully slow.

On one side, yes, it does cost a lot, and perhaps it is better to just shut the region down for a few days. On the flip side, everyone seems to say that this is a "once in a decade event". That was then. Now they seem to be happening more frequently, seeing as we've had three "once in a decade" events in the last 8 weeks. Will the trend continue, or will it end up being a spike on the graph? That remains to be seen. If the trend continues, I would suggest some larger investment in snow removal equipment, if for no other reason than we could be facing a national security issue if our government is paralyzed. If it turns out not to be a trend...well, we can still make investments in other teleworking infrastructure.

Posted by: thetan | February 9, 2010 10:45 PM | Report abuse

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