The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) today hosted its annual “Snow Show” news conferences in Hanover and Silver Spring to brief reporters on SHA’s winter preparedness. SHA Administrator Gregory Johnson, P.E., briefed reporters on salt supplies, budget, equipment and winter training.
“The men and women of SHA are ready to respond to ensure roads are safe and passable this winter,” said Administrator Johnson. “Maryland ranges from beaches to mountains and the winter storms are just as varied as the landscapes. Our response will be customized to circumstances and we ask travelers to be just as alert and modify their driving to match weather and road conditions.”
Over the summer, SHA and contractor crews brushed up on winter weather driving skills and repaired/inspected equipment. Statewide, SHA has 380,000 tons of salt packed into its 95 barns/domes and 14 salt brine producing plants that serve 77 locations in Maryland.
SHA is modernizing roadway weather sensors to help maintenance managers receive enhanced, real-time pavement condition data. Many of the existing pavement sensors are embedded in the roadway and degrade over time. SHA has installed nearly 100 infrared pavement sensors throughout the State and another 40 will be installed in the next two years.
Each year, SHA’s goal is to use less salt on the roads while keeping highways safe and passable. One method used is pre-wetting salt before dispensing it onto the roads. SHA wets the salt with brine or magnesium chloride prior to spreading, which helps it adhere to road surfaces and prevent waste due to bounce and scatter. Experience and studies show that pre-wetting can lead to a 30 percent reduction in salt use.
SHA maintenance staff always balances between the necessary amounts of salt needed to keep roads safe and passable while reducing impacts on the environment
Before the Storm
SHA maintenance personnel and operations staffs plan for each storm as much as several days in advance by closely monitoring weather forecasts and pre-treating major roads and interstates when conditions warrant. Over the past several years, SHA increased the pre-treatment of State roads using salt brine. Crews spray the salt brine onto roads several hours or up to a few days prior to a storm, leaving a thin film of salt on the pavement. Pre-treating will not take place if a storm is forecasted to begin as rain because the brine solution will wash off and be ineffective.
Before a storm hits is the best time for motorists to make certain their vehicles are in proper working order. A thorough check of belts, hoses and battery life prior to the winter is essential. Adequate tire tread is also critical in winter driving.
During the storm
“Take it slow on ice and snow. Remember not to pass snow plows or plow trains. The unplowed roads are ahead of the plows and the treated roads are behind them,” added Johnson. “It is important to clear snow completely off vehicles before driving to increase visibility. Packed snow can become dangerous projectiles if it slides off a vehicle into the windshield of another.”
When the weather service forecasts storms with six or more inches of snow, SHA will designate certain park and ride lots where truckers can pull off and wait out the storm. These lots serve as safe havens for truckers and lessen the chance of large trucks becoming stuck or disabled during winter weather. For a complete listing of emergency truck pull off locations, click here.
For larger predicted storms, SHA is continuing to deploy heavy-duty tow trucks designed to tow large commercial trucks should they become disabled in the roadway. The large tow trucks will be deployed at strategic areas where trucks have a higher chance of becoming stuck.
SHA crews work hard to keep roads passable during snow storms so that access to critical services, such as hospitals, can be maintained. SHA reminds everyone to “Know Before You Go – Especially in Ice and Snow.” Maryland now has free 511 traveler information. Call 511 or 1-855-GOMD511 or visit: www.md511.org for current travel information. Sign up to personalize travel route information through MY511 on the website. Remember to use 511 safely – Maryland law restricts hand-held mobile phone use and texting while driving. Travelers can also plan ahead before heading out by logging onto the cyber highway at www.roads.maryland.gov and clicking on “CHART.”
Finally, follow SHA on social media through Twitter @MDSHA and on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/MarylandStateHighwayAdministration. The social media platforms are staffed Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and during major emergencies and storms.