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VTrans says no major changes to plowing of state roads

  • A Vermont Agency of Transportation map shows the priority level for winter maintenance during and after storms. (Courtesy Vermont Agency of Transportation)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/25/2020 12:04:21 AM
Modified: 1/29/2020 5:43:07 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The Vermont Agency of Transportation this month updated its “snow and ice control plan” for 2020 with more information about the use of liquid chloride and new technology but made no fundamental changes to its timing in plowing state roads during winter weather.

“The Agency understands Vermonters’ concerns about winter travel, and we assure you that the level of service has not changed,” AOT Secretary Joe Flynn said in a statement on Wednesday in response to an earlier version of this story, which incorrectly said that the level of service this year would be cut back on many roads overnight compared to current practice.

Instead, the 2020 plan continues with a classification system that was established in 2011 and updated in 2013 to create a higher priority for interstates and a handful of other high-volume, high-speed roads in the state.

Top priority goes to roads such as Interstates 91 and 89, which are plowed and salted throughout a storm, with a reduction in coverage between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., according to the plan. Once a storm has subsided, those roads are cleared bare as soon as possible, before all other roads.

The second-highest level of service go to such roads as Route 4, Route 9 and Route 103, which are plowed and salted frequently in a storm, but drivers can expect the roadway to be covered at times during the storm itself.

A lower priority is given to such highways as Route 302 and Route 100, which may be covered even after a storm is finished but would go to “full-width bare pavement as soon as practical” on the next working day after the storm.

The lowest-priority state highways include Route 5, Route 14, Route 12, Route 113 and Route 244. They are considered less trafficked, and drivers can expect just “one-third bare pavement” in the middle of the road the day following a storm.

In a post to Thetford residents last week, Police Chief Michael Evans said, AOT “will essentially not be plowing or salting” several of the state highways running through town between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Vermont doesn’t have a “bare roads” policy like many other states, but has long operated under a “safe roads at safe speeds” policy, AOT Maintenance Bureau Director Todd Law said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

“Which means during the storm, you will see snow on the roads, and we will be out plowing, treating, and then you will not see bare lanes, most likely, until after the snow has subsided and we can get on top of it. And that’s all weather- and temperature-dependent.”

AOT’s website says a “bare roads policy would more than double the number of our maintenance staff and add additional plow trucks and facilities.”

The 2020 plan, signed on Jan. 8 by Flynn, the AOT secretary, includes new information about “best management practices” AOT has been using for chloride reduction, including applying “liquids or proprietary chemicals” before the start of a winter storm to target icing in problem areas, such as steep grades and curves; using in-cab air/ground temperature sensors; and “pre-wetting” dry salt as it is being applied to a roadway.

It also notes that state plow trucks are increasingly being equipped with “closed loop ground speed spread controllers” to make sure road salt is being applied efficiently and consistently. 

AOT also is relying on “road weather information stations,”  temperature sensors and traffic cameras to help provide more “real-time feedback” on pavement temperatures and road conditions.

The agency also is relying on a public outreach program, including variable messaging signs that warn motorists of changing road conditions and media alerts for the traveling public.

Correction

The Vermont Agency of Transportation’s snow and ice control plan, first created in 2004, established three levels service for plowing and clearing state roads in 2011 and added a top priority for highest-volume, highest speed roads in 2013. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that changes were made to service levels in the 2020 plan. 




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