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Snowfall a challenge for D.C. plows

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

The sheer volume of the snow that has accumulated in the District since last Friday has added a challenge to clearing the streets, city officials said Thursday.

"This is no longer just a plow operation," said Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation. "There is too much snow accumulation on some streets for the plows to adequately move the snow, the snow has to be physically removed and hauled away. This will add some time to our cleanup efforts but we have crews working around-the-clock to minimize how long and to assist us in being as efficient as possible."

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said the back-to-back storms delivered nearly 30 inches of snow in the city.

"Crews have been working non-stop since nearly a week ago and will continue to do so as we are dedicated to clearing city roadways and neighborhood streets," Fenty said.

In addition to 250 to 270 pieces of equipment for plowing and treating roadways, the city has deployed specialized equipment such as backhoes, frontloaders, dump trucks, and dumpsters.

"Two day ago we sent significant resources east of the river to a neighborhood called Benning Ridge whose streets are particularly hilly and plows couldn't get up them," said John Lisle, DDOT spokesman. "We sent a front-end loader to deal with it."

Lisle reacted to an email sent to The Washington Post by a man who said he lived in Columbia Heights. The man wrote that he'd heard from "a very good friend works for the DDOT as an emergency coordinator" that the mayor had ordered plows "to plow only in the Wards of 2, 3, and 4," the city's more affluent neighborhoods.

"That is incredibly untrue," Lisle said. "There are streets throughout the city that still need attention. I just got an e-mail from someone in Georgetown who hasn't been plowed.

"Our snow removal plan doesn't have a big doughnut hole in it that's the area we don't plow. It has nothing to do with where you live. ... We attack every neighborhood at the same time. There's no conspiracy here."

For storms of 18 inches or more the District's goal is to clear major corridors and roadways within 36 hours and to reach residential streets within 60 hours.

"DPW is working citywide plowing, salting and hauling snow. We also are emptying downtown street litter cans," said Department of Public Works Director William O. Howland, Jr. "We will announce our trash collection plan for Friday and next week later today."

-- Ashley Halsey III

By Michael Bolden  |  February 11, 2010; 2:28 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Weather , highways  | Tags: District Department of Transportation  
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Yeah, but is the snow emergency lifted? Can I park in a snow emergency route again? I got towed last weekend and I am mystified as to where to look to find out if a snow emergency is still in effect, certainly not on

Posted by: GoPens | February 11, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The snow emergency is still in effect, according to the Mayor's Call Center at 311.

Michael Bolden
Transportation Editor

Posted by: boldenm | February 11, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Could you post that to your blog when the snow emergency is lifted? That is information a lot of people will want to know.

Posted by: thetan | February 11, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Exactly thetan! Thanks Transpo Editor...

Posted by: GoPens | February 11, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I agree about posting when the snow emergency is lifted. It would be very helpful and extremely appreciated!

Posted by: mmurphy6 | February 11, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Two thoughts:

- During snow emergencies, can't they get parking garages to open for free or reduced cost, to give people a place to park off the street? It would make the plowing go so much more quickly. If the city gets back to normal more quickly, those garages can go back to making money more quickly.

- I recall that after the 2003 Presidents Day storm, they set up some melting equipment in downtown (Connecticut & L, IIRC), and just brought dump truck after dump truck of snow over to melt it all quickly. Can't they do something like that again? (It's rough on the sewer system but natural melting was going to cause a sewer overflow anyway.)

Posted by: rallycap | February 11, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The city has always hauled snow away after the big ones.

Why the explaining from the DOT folks as if it's a surprise to them that snow takes up space and can't just be stacked? Hauling with front loaders and dump trucks should be done routinely, not as a belated discovery.

Posted by: JohnRDC | February 11, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Actually the city opened the DC USA garage in Columbia Heights for free to encourage people to remove their cars from streets. The garage has been free from last Friday and will remain free until Saturday morning.

Posted by: danieldc1 | February 11, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

My neighborhood in Congress Heights (Ward 8) hasn't been plowed or salted yet. I can't drive home and park because there's nowhere to park without blocking the barely-passable bumpy snow-covered street for an hour to dig myself a parking space. The buses have stopped, so I can't take the bus either. Hmm. What to do?!

Posted by: reader123 | February 11, 2010 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I hope the snow emergency routes are kept closed to parking until all of the parking lanes are fully plowed. Anyone parking before then simply makes the process take longer.

Posted by: ah___ | February 11, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

If you had ever lived in Georgetown, you would know how ridiculous a story that says it gets plowed first is! In the 96 blizzard, it was 10 days before a plow saw our street.

Things aren't much better these days.

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | February 11, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

When you are waiting for government to do something, then you are going to be waiting a LONG time.

You want something done?
Do it yourself.

You may complain that you pay taxes for this stuff -- and you would be right to do so -- but the fact remains that you can't count on government for anything, ever.

Posted by: ooyah32 | February 11, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I live in Congress Heights and we only saw one plow truck doring the two snow storms. My neighboors and I decided if we want to get out of our street we would have to shovel the snow ourselves. So we all got together and shoveled the street today. Since the city pays contractors to shovel show we were wondering if maybe we could get maybe a tax break.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | February 11, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Just got back home after spending two nights in the JW Marriott. The roads in and out of the District are great. Even the District roads themselves are in decent shape (can't speak for the residential areas) but there is absolutely no street parking. Unless you have a garage downtown, you might want to consider staying home. Delivery trucks are gonna cause headaches on even narrower lanes.

Posted by: palmtree2001 | February 11, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

So they've brought in special equipment to clear the roads, but the sidewalks remain the responsibility of businesses/homeowners, only there's no enforcement if they don't do it? So basically the DC Government response to anyone who doesn't drive is - screw you?

They make sidewalk plows (call the University of Michigan, I'm sure they'd give a recommendation). Perhaps in emergency situations such as this, the government should focus on making sure the largest number of people can safely travel - meaning get sidewalks and bus stops clear so folks aren't standing in the road. If it takes longer to get to side streets that only residents use, they can suck it up and take public transportation.

Posted by: WMLizard | February 11, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Any word on trash collection this week? Just wondering how it's going to work with trash pickup from alleys that haven't been cleared. I'm antsy b/c our alley hasn't received trash pickup since 1/28!

Posted by: Seadaisy | February 11, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

We have 10, 15 and 20 cubic yard dumpsters ready to assist any Contractor or Government Agency that needs help removing accumulated snow to a remote location in any area of Washington.

We are ready to help

Posted by: HEFFEROS | February 12, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

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