Snow Summit: Virginia Department of Transportation


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On March 16, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors' Transportation Committee hosted a Snow Summit to assess both what worked well and what did not at the state — Virginia Department of Transportation — and county levels. The lessons learned from this summit will be invaluable not only for the next snow storm, but for any emergency.

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  • Several passes on interstate means 45,000 lane miles
  • Snow Summit: Virginia Department of Transportation

    1. 1. Fairfax County Snow Summit March 16, 2010 Morteza Salehi , Northern Virginia District Administrator Branco Vlacich , Assistant District Administrator for Maintenance Renée Hamilton , Assistant District Administrator
    3. 3. <ul><li>Accurate, timely weather forecasting for each county through a customized contract with Meridian </li></ul><ul><li>Development and implementation of detailed mobilization plans </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Number and types of equipment needed based on forecast </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Anti-icing (pre-treating) critical locations </li></ul><ul><li>Incident command at McConnell PSTOC </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>24/7/365 command-and-control structure with duty officers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Situational awareness </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Inter-agency coordination with Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police, Fire and Rescue, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Maryland State Highway Administration, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Co-location of Customer Service Center at MPSTOC </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(703) 383-VDOT; direct assignment to responsible staff </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>About 135 calls on a non-snow day; about 300 calls/day for a typical 6-inch storm; 34,000 calls for February snowstorms </li></ul></ul></ul>Improvements to VDOT’s Snow Program in Recent Years
    4. 4. February 2010 Storms <ul><li>Historic snowfall </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More than 45 inches of snow </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>about 6 inches Jan. 29 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>over 34 inches on Feb. 5-6 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>about 5 inches on Feb. 10-11 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>low temperatures during and after the event </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>2,200 pieces of equipment, including over 200 pieces of heavy equipment from other VDOT areas and 300 from out of state and other sources </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>By comparison: Blizzard of 1996 left 38 inches of snow; had 960 pieces of equipment </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting the challenges of interstates and high-volume roads </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>17,000+ lane miles of interstates, primary, secondary, and residential streets (8,000+ lane miles in Fairfax County) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Change in nature of operation—loading/hauling in addition to plowing on the Beltway, I-95/I-395, I-66, HOV lanes and gates </li></ul></ul></ul>
    5. 5. Challenges (After-Action Reviews) <ul><li>Improving contract management </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Improve oversight, accountability, and training, including monitoring of progress </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Explore feasibility of increased use of automatic vehicle locator (AVL) technology </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Examine the possibility of using county support staff and others for improved monitoring and performance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Communication </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Examine ways to better communicate priorities and what residents can expect </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Explore ways to gather timely and accurate information about the status of operations and share with the public </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Examine ways to enhance communication with state, local, and community leaders </li></ul></ul></ul>
    6. 6. VDOT Roads in Northern Virginia <ul><li>VDOT is responsible for Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Arlington (except secondary roads) counties and I-66 from D.C. to Front Royal </li></ul><ul><li>17,679 lane miles </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>8,930 interstates </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>8,749 major routes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>and neighborhood streets </li></ul></ul></ul>Loudoun Prince William Fairfax Arlington
    7. 7. 17,000 Lane Miles Equals . . . 6 Trips Across the Continental U.S.
    8. 8. About the 2009-2010 Winter <ul><li>VDOT crews have mobilized 19 times since November </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Dec. 17-24 16-21 inches </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Jan. 28-Feb. 4 8-14 inches </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Feb. 4-14 18-36 inches </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Sustained below-freezing temperatures </li></ul>Repeated thaw and refreeze left many roads rutted, but passable. (Southland Avenue, Fairfax)
    9. 9. <ul><li>Heavy snowfall required front loaders/dump trucks to load and haul snow from the Beltway, I-95/395 HOV, I-66 “X” lanes, some major intersections </li></ul><ul><li>In February, VDOT pushed, moved or hauled 20 million tons of snow from roads in northern Virginia </li></ul>About the 2009-2010 Winter Where concrete barriers prevented piling, snow had to be loaded from the Beltway, I-95/395 HOV lanes and I-66 “X” lanes (above). Some snow was placed under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge (right).
    10. 10. About the 2009-2010 Winter <ul><li>Widespread power outages, hundreds of downed trees </li></ul><ul><li>Snow drifts up to 14 feet (Loudoun County) </li></ul>VDOT assisted emergency responders and utility crews throughout the storms. Crews helped dislodge this Dominion Power truck, stranded in a 14-foot-high snowdrift in Loudoun County.
    11. 11. Before the Storm <ul><li>Forecast review with National Weather Service and Meridian (VDOT’s on-call weather service) </li></ul><ul><li>District-wide conference call to discuss mobilization plan </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-treating (anti-icing) critical locations 1-2 days prior </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>500 lane miles of interstate ramps, bridges, overpasses </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Springfield Interchange, Beltway at Route 1, I-66 at Gainesville) with liquid magnesium chloride </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>200 lane miles of high-volume roads (Routes 1, 7, 28, 29, 50, Fairfax County Parkway, etc.) with salt brine </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Mobilization begins several hours prior to forecasted start </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Contractor trucks equipped, stocked, deployed </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Trucks strategically staged along major routes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Incident command is activated at PSTOC when a major storm is forecasted </li></ul>
    12. 12. Mobilization Levels
    13. 13. VDOT Resources <ul><li>18 local maintenance headquarters (9 in Fairfax, 4 each in Prince William and Loudoun, 1 in Arlington) </li></ul><ul><li>About 1,700 pieces of equipment (state and contractor) are available </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>274 interstate trucks equipped with automatic vehicle locators (AVL) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>300 pick-ups (landscape-type trucks) typically used in subdivisions, and can push up to 18 inches of snow </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Different trucks for interstates versus subdivisions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>About 90 percent of crews and equipment are contracted </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Training includes classroom sessions, snowplow simulators and snow route visits </li></ul></ul></ul>
    14. 14. <ul><li>2,200 pieces of equipment deployed </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-treated critical locations </li></ul><ul><li>Early mobilization and staging trucks – major roads, subdivisions </li></ul><ul><li>Planned for additional crews and 500 pieces of equipment (VDOT and contracted) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Other VDOT areas </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Massive storms had regional and statewide implications </li></ul>Mobilization for February Storms Heavy equipment such as this snowblower (left) and front-end loader (right) were used to clear February’s major snowfall.
    15. 15. VDOT Road Priorities <ul><li>Roads are generally cleared from highest volume to lowest: </li></ul><ul><li>Interstates (I-66, I-95/395, I-495) made passable, then cleared to bare pavement </li></ul><ul><li>High-volume routes (Routes 1, 7, 28, 50, Fairfax County Parkway, Prince William County Parkway, etc.) </li></ul><ul><li>Main thoroughfares in neighborhoods </li></ul><ul><li>Remaining neighborhood streets and cul-de-sacs </li></ul><ul><li>Concurrent Priorities: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Shoulders and gore areas </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Hauling snow where barriers prohibit piling (I-95/395 HOV, Beltway, construction sites) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>I-95/395 Reversible HOV lanes and ramps </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Commuter lots (15,000 spaces along I-95 and I-66) </li></ul></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Subdivisions and low-volume roads “Doing the most good in the least amount of time” <ul><li>Plowed when 2+ inches have fallen </li></ul><ul><li>Main thoroughfares in neighborhoods are repeatedly plowed during a storm </li></ul><ul><li>Once main roads are clear, crews work on the remaining streets and cul-de-sacs </li></ul>Vale Spring Drive, Oakton (right) Stop sign at Hillcrest Place and Parramore Drive, Alexandria (below)
    17. 17. Subdivisions and low-volume roads “Doing the most good in the least amount of time” <ul><li>Will be made “passable”– an 8’ to 10’ wide path that is drivable with caution; remains snow-packed, rutted </li></ul><ul><li>Not curb-to-curb or to bare pavement </li></ul><ul><li>Hills, curves, intersections, problem spots sanded for traction </li></ul><ul><li>One pass for typical storms; major storms require multiple passes and heavier equipment such as front loaders </li></ul>Harrowhill Lane, Burke (not passable) Slidell Lane, Springfield (passable)
    18. 18. <ul><li>Fairfax neighborhood roads are divided into 350 snow maps (650 district-wide) </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Maps are updated annually to ensure all state-maintained roads are included. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Once main subdivision thoroughfares are completed, plow drivers: </li></ul><ul><li>Are assigned up to three maps each </li></ul><ul><li>Complete one map at a time </li></ul><ul><li>Report when at least one pass is made </li></ul><ul><li>May be temporarily reassigned for emergencies, special circumstances </li></ul>How neighborhoods are assigned and plowed Swinton Drive, near Braddock Road (passable)
    19. 19. Fairfax County Snow Maps One of 350 snow maps assigned to plow drivers in Fairfax County. “Hotspots” are identified by area superintendents and added to maps annually.
    20. 20. Completing Subdivisions <ul><li>Maintenance and office staff check progress and ensure completion in subdivisions </li></ul><ul><li>Subdivisions are considered complete when a driver reports the maps completed and monitors have spot checked them. </li></ul><ul><li>Once subdivision streets are passable, resident inquiries are “mapped” by the Customer Service Center and logged into VDOT’s reporting system and assigned to crews to revisit. </li></ul>Americana Drive (Annandale) after plow passes.
    21. 21. Customer Service Center <ul><li>To give crews a chance to finish assigned snow maps, VDOT asks that residents wait a few days after the storm ends before reporting roads as “missed.” Once crews have finished their routes, resident complaints are mapped into a database that feeds lists of locations back to the area headquarters to revisit. </li></ul><ul><li>Dozens of staff work 12-hour shifts to answer resident e-mails, take calls and log them into the system. </li></ul>During February’s storms, calls inundated the center long before snow stopped falling. Staff worked to answer more than 34,000 calls and 5,000 e-mails to the info lines.
    22. 22. Communication: A Layered Approach <ul><li>Media </li></ul><ul><li>Public Affairs issues round-the-clock updates and provides on-camera/phone interviews before/during/after storms </li></ul><ul><li>Public Affairs stationed at incident command </li></ul><ul><li>Elected Officials </li></ul><ul><li>Call reserved hotline </li></ul><ul><li>Detailed updates from Renée Hamilton </li></ul><ul><li>Public </li></ul><ul><li>Call 511 for road conditions </li></ul><ul><li>Visit for road conditions and traffic cams </li></ul><ul><li>Follow 511northernva on Twitter for road conditions and accidents </li></ul><ul><li>Visit for snow removal tips </li></ul><ul><li>Visit for news and road conditions </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail [email_address] or call 703-383-8368 to report unplowed roads </li></ul>
    23. 23. Get Snow Information Online Twitter YouTube
    24. 24. Post-Storm Activities <ul><li>Clearing Debris </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Crews have been addressing downed trees and debris removal as part of ongoing daily maintenance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Work continues to be scheduled; residents and motorists can report issues online or to 703-383-8368 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Addressing Potholes </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Governor implemented statewide </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Pothole Blitz” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Crews have filled 7,000+ potholes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>in Fairfax County alone since 3/1 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Crews using nine “Pothole Killers” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>as well as traditional methods </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Citizens encouraged to report </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>potholes online or to 703-383-8368 </li></ul></ul></ul>One of nine “Pothole Killers” working in northern Virginia.
    25. 25. What Worked Well <ul><li>Incident command, co-location with agencies at PSTOC </li></ul><ul><li>Early mobilization and staging of equipment at critical locations (including subdivisions) </li></ul><ul><li>Pre-treating and clearing interstates, high-volume roads </li></ul><ul><li>Planning ahead for additional crews and equipment </li></ul><ul><li>Morale and dedication </li></ul><ul><li>Equipment reliability (mechanics 24/7; few breakdowns) </li></ul><ul><li>Coordination with Virginia State Police, Fairfax County Police, 911, Fire and Rescue, utility companies, other agencies in emergency response </li></ul><ul><li>No lives were lost! </li></ul>
    26. 26. Opportunities for Improvement During Major Storms <ul><li>Subdivision response </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Improve training and oversight of contractors </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Update trouble spots on county maps </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Explore contracts for additional heavy equipment for 18-inch and larger storms </li></ul><ul><li>Explore assistance from other agencies </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Equipment and drivers/monitors from local governments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Possible use of helicopters to assist with monitoring subdivisions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Improve how we track and monitor plowing in subdivisions </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Explore increased use of AVL </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Explore improvements to reporting/mapping systems </li></ul></ul></ul>
    27. 27. <ul><li>THANK YOU. </li></ul><ul><li>We welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. </li></ul>