ANNAPOLIS – The memory of mountains of snow piled along highways still lingers in the minds of Marylanders and those who drove through the region last winter.
While no one wants a repeat of those paralyzing storms, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) has tuned up equipment, stocked up on supplies and has plans in place to handle whatever the winter season brings.
Last winter, SHA used approximately 368,854 tons of salt, 680,000 gallons of salt brine and 12,000 gallons of sugar beet molasses (used in Frederick and Howard counties) to remove an average of 86 inches of snow throughout the state.
SHA Stocks Up on Anti-Freezing Supplies
SHA is ready for this year’s winter with 340,000 tons of salt, 675,000 gallons of salt brine and 30,000 gallons of sugar beet molasses, which SHA will expand usage to the Washington, D.C. suburbs, the Annapolis area and regions in Western Maryland.
“Last winter’s massive snowfalls here in Maryland made us all partners. Agencies helped agencies, businesses helped businesses and neighbors helped neighbors,” said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen. “SHA is ready for winter and will again aggressively fight to keep our roads clear and safe.”
SHA’s goal this coming winter is to pre-treat all interstates and Route 50 in advance of a storm. Pre-treating roadways using salt brine (liquidized salt) – in some cases a salt brine/sugar beet molasses mixture – helps ice and snow from sticking or bonding to the pavement at the onset of a storm.
This enables SHA crews to be “ahead of the game” and reduces overall salt usage due to salt scatter, which is when salt rolls off of the roadway.
Pre-treating will not take place if a storm is expected to begin as rain causing the brine solution to wash off and be ineffective. SHA currently has eight salt brine-making facilities and three more will be in operation by the end of the year.
In addition to the 11 salt brine facilities, SHA will store salt brine at 66 sites across the state.
SHA will prioritize incident response by using its CHART (Coordinated Highway Action Response Team) System. CHART Emergency Response Teams clears crashes or assists stranded vehicles that have the potential to create major congestion or cause long back-ups.
This also includes closing and creating detours early for roadways in a storm event to prevent extreme congestion.
SHA is providing outreach to major decision makers and route planners for large trucking agencies, high-wattage radio stations that provide truck traffic during overnight hours and on satellite radio stations geared toward trucking.
Forewarning truckers of road conditions in Maryland will help solve weather-related congestions issues and long delays.
During a winter storm, SHA personnel monitor a bank of more than 100 SHA-maintained roadway cameras throughout the state at the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) in Hanover, Maryland.
The center also has access to additional regional camera networks in Maryland. At this location, SHA also monitors pavement temperatures, a key to effective and efficient re-deployment during winter storms.
When a winter weather emergency occurs, the SOC doubles as the Emergency Operations Center, the command center for winter storm operations. From here operators monitor traffic, collect information from roadway sensors, and deploy equipment such as snow plows and salt trucks.
Travelers can plan ahead before hitting the pavement by logging onto the cyber highway at www.roads.maryland.gov and clicking on “CHART.” The CHART website offers a treasure trove of travel information, snow emergency plans, real-time traffic camera views, weather information, average travel speed maps and incident-related road closure reports.
There are many ways to get in touch with SHA during a winter storm. The easiest way to report any issues along SHA-maintained highways is through Customer Care Management System (CCMS).
By logging onto roads.maryland.gov, citizens can go to the “Contact Us” tab and click on “Submit a Service Request.” The online submission form is easy to fill out and will be directed to the proper department within SHA to address the issue. Motorists can also call the regularly updated Winter Storm Hotline at 1-800-327-3125 for conditions.
Tips in Snow
• During a snow storm don’t drive if you don’t have to.
• “Don’t Crowd the Plow” – NEVER pass a snow plow or plow train (a series of plows working in tandem). If driving behind a snow plow or salt truck, provide plenty of space (at least 7-8 car lengths) behind the truck.
• Remember – bridges, ramps and overpasses freeze first. Use caution when driving across them.
• Four-wheel drive vehicles are just as vulnerable to slipping on ice as regular two-wheel drive vehicles.
• Pack a winter driving survival kit – including a shovel, blanket, water, jumper cables, flares, snacks and a flash light.
• Before taking to the road, log onto www. roads.maryland.gov, click on the CHART icon and view traffic cameras.
• Obtain a copy of the SHA “Winter Weather Brochure” and keep it in your glove compartment. Brochures are available at Maryland welcome centers and SHA offices.
• Clear snow from your vehicle’s headlights, roof and from other places that may obstruct vision or become a danger to other motorists.
• Make sure your vehicle is in proper working conditions. Check the battery, tire tread and pressure, belts, hoses and fluid levels.
• Travel with plenty of gas in the tank.
• When shoveling snow, do not place it in the street/roadway. Plow trucks push snow to the right. When facing your driveway, pile snow to your left, off the road. This reminder will save you additional hours of shoveling.