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SHA Unleashes New Tools to Battle Old Man Winter
This year the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is using new tools and strategies to battle winter storms. The new tool is an exciting piece of equipment first tested by the Missouri Department of Transportation. Known as the “Tow Plow,” it is towed behind and to the side of SHA maintenance trucks to plow the center lane in a snow plow “train.” The engine-less equipment frees the maintenance truck it replaces to cover other areas, and reduces fuel costs and emissions. The Tow Plow also has the capability to apply salt or salt brine to the road.
The Tow Plow has gained national attention through the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Technology Implementation Group (TIG). TIG promotes technological advancements in transportation and encourages implementation of new technology in the transportation marketplace.
Other innovations for winter include the addition of snow volunteers who, as part of their normal commute, will report roadway conditions to SHA. The “Snow Squad” volunteers will help SHA provide real-time conditions to the traveling public.
“SHA prepares for the winter season all year long. Even during the hottest days of the summer, teams were securing the chemicals and preparing equipment needed to battle winter's wrath,” said Darrell Mobley, MDOT Deputy Secretary and acting SHA Administrator. “Every year we work hard to deliver bare pavement as soon as possible in order to keep Maryland open for business. This year we've added eight more cameras for roadway monitoring, tow plows and a snow patrol."
Preparations include 340,000 tons of salt and 770,000 gallons of salt brine to pre-treat SHA’s Highway system.
Before the Storm
SHA will pre-treat interstates 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 allows 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 forecast to begin as rain because the brine solution will wash off and be ineffective. SHA currently has 11 salt brine facilities and store brine at 66 sites across the State.
SHA is continuing to pre-deploy heavy-duty tow trucks to assist tractor trailers should they become disabled during a storm. SHA can deploy up to 17 heavy-duty trucks.
“Know Before You Go.” 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.
Outreach to the trucking industry is essential in reducing weather-related congestion. A single jackknifed tractor trailer can cause significant delays and prevent SHA from treating roadways during the height of a storm. SHA is constantly expanding communications with large trucking firms, trade publications and radio stations and satellite radio providers whose audience are the trucking community. With real-time knowledge of road conditions, route planners and truckers can use alternate routes and avoid becoming disabled.
Travelers can plan ahead before hitting the pavement by logging onto the cyber highway at www.roads.maryland.gov and clicking on “CHART” (Coordinated Highway Action Response Team). 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.
CHART is located at the Statewide Operations Center (SOC) in Hanover where SHA personnel have access to hundreds of cameras throughout the State.
The easiest way to report any issues along SHA-maintained highways is through the 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.
SHA will prioritize incident response by using the CHART System. Emergency Response Teams will respond to incidents that have the potential to create major congestion and cause long back ups.
SHA also has access to additional regional camera networks in Maryland. At the SOC, SHA 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.
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