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Plowing results vary across D.C. region

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

From what I've seen and from the reports I've received from you, the road clearing operations have achieved mixed results. It's not just a question of highways vs. neighborhoods. Conditions vary along one stretch of highway, or from neighborhood to neighborhood. Here's a sample.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
I have been impressed with Montgomery County's efforts to get roads clear after the Snowmageddon. The county-maintained roads that have been plowed have been clear to the pavement with generally space for two vehicles to pass.

I know they were still clearing neighborhoods Monday and I know that people on small roads and, especially, cul-de-sacs have felt generally ignored. But really my comment is about the shockingly poor performance by the Maryland Department of Transportation on the state-maintained roads, which are the busiest and most highly traveled.

I was on the Beltway on Monday and it was in good shape. But Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike, Connecticut, East-West Highway, Bradley Boulevard, and so on, are all in awful condition. These are major routes and heavily used and some of the intersections -- particularly East-West at Wisconsin and East-West at Connecticut -- were almost impassible.
Whitney Baird
Chevy Chase

On Monday afternoon, I heard from a Montgomery County resident resident who said neighborhood streets in Silver Spring that were passable had become so only so because neighbors banded together to work on them or drove heavy vehicles along them to pack the snow down.

Also Monday, Steve Yaffee wrote in with this complaint: Please ask VDOT, MDOT and DDOT how they define "passable." Do they think that a highway lane with 4" of packed snow except for the sudden drops for bare pavement is "passable"? Is the "passable" standard 10 mph in a 4-wheel drive vehicle?

This morning, Post staff writer Ceci Connolly reported that Massachusetts Avenue in the District was one lane in each direction. She described Wisconsin Avenue as a "slushy mess."

Staff writer Nikita Stewart reports that D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty will reinstate the snow emergency at 4 p.m. to clear major roadways in anticipation of Tuesday's storm. The weekend emergency rule had been lifted on Monday morning.

In many traffic camera views, the road conditions vary greatly. Whether in city or suburb, some stretches have multiple lanes cleared completely, while others show huge snow piles blocking side lanes or turn lanes, and certainly hampering drivers' vision.

In most areas, clearing the snow has been much more challenging this time than it was during the December storm. Remember how cold it was during that snowfall, and how light the snow was? This one was deeper and heavier, and much more difficult to clear.

I'll use Maryland as the example in this posting, but highway departments across the regional follow the same game plan: They attack the main roads first and when they are at least passable, they move into the neighborhoods. The Maryland State Highway Administration is responsible for state-numbered roads and U.S. routes. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation tackles neighborhood streets.

There's plenty of work to go around. Montgomery County says it has 800 pieces of equipment out on the streets and hopes to get to every one of them at least once by noon Tuesday. County officials are asking people not to call 911 with snow plowing questions because it delays responses to emergencies.

But the number of calls to the snow line, 240-777-6000, has gotten so large that the county also is asking people not to call that number right now. "A record number of callers have overwhelmed the phone line, as residents panic to get out of their neighborhoods before the next storm," the county said in a statement this morning.

In a Monday afternoon press conference, State Highway Administrator Neil J. Pedersen talked about the huge challenges the state crews face on the Capital Beltway, I-270, I-95 and U.S. 50, among others. Many drivers could see for themselves: Lanes disappeared into snow banks, merge lanes were non-existent, ramps were slushy or icy or both, and piles of snow blocked views of on-coming traffic.

Driving was especially difficult around interchanges. It had gotten past the point where plows could deal with it, so heavier equipment had to be brought in. The natural conditions created some traffic delays and the snow-clearing operations created others.
That's still true on Tuesday morning, even as the crews push to create enough room by the sides of the roads to put all the new snow that's forecast to start falling Tuesday afternoon.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 9, 2010; 10:12 AM ET
Categories:  Weather  
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Next: All travel still difficult in D.C. area


total SNOverkill dudes

Posted by: m1ke3i6 | February 9, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Massachusetts Ave in Maryland as of midday Tuesday from the DC line to Goldsboro is barely passable. Ice, slush buildup, cars stuck, traffic jams, angry people.

Posted by: peisner | February 9, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I just wish DC, MD, and VA officials would be HONEST and admit that they are being overwhelmed by the snow, and that most streets are NOT "passable". Just be honest and admit the truth. Fenty is probably the worst offender, with his stupid comment last week about DC being "open for business" on Monday. Sorry, buddy, but the streets just are terrible out there.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 9, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

None of the roads from Dupont circle to Georgetown have been plowed in days. Connecticut and Wisconsin Aves are still covered in snow! Major crosstown roads like 22nd, 23rd, L St, M St, P St are all but impassable. It didn't take much, but the plows just never came. Interestingly, the streets and sidewalks that were not the District's responsibility but were covered by condo associations, Georgetown University, and private businesses are now mostly snow- and ice-free. The only thing historic about this storm has been the totally absent cleanup.

Posted by: arty31 | February 9, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Herndon did their usual good job, everywhere was driveable by last night.

Posted by: Hemisphire | February 9, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't know what they did in Alexandria yesterday. Route 1 and Washington Street are okay in Old Town but the rest of the streets are barely passable. Fortunately, I only had to drive a couple of miles to get to work.

There are way too many cars on the roads for the conditions. I agree with the other comment on jurisidictions just admitting that they're overwhelmed.

Posted by: tidalwave1 | February 9, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

When will DDOT plow side streets?

They expect resident to clear their sidewalks within 8 hours, but they can't even plow residential neighborhoods within 3 days?!

An aside:

Posted by: GreenDev | February 9, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Montgomery County apparently declared my neck of the Wheaton suburbs unplowable due parked cars and lack of places to put the snow. Most houses in the area do not have off-street parking, and there are a number of theoretically single-family homes that have half a dozen cars - it's certainly possible that they actually couldn't get a plow through.

Our street did indeed do the "band together to shovel out the road" project, but I'm a bit worried about what we're going to do for the next round. The wall of snow on either side of the shoveled corridor is already 4 feet high, and we'll now have to somehow lob the next round of snow over that mound if we want to try a repeat performance.

Posted by: adbiosec | February 9, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Surprising that a major road like Massachusetts Avenue in Montgomery county (between Western and Goldsboro) still has not be cleared of snow as of Tuesday February 9. This was not the case during the Dec. 19 storm when Mass Ave got cleared reasonably quickly. Did coordination between country and state governments break down this time round?

Posted by: rb101 | February 9, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

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