Remember last February’s snowstorm? Whether you remember being snowbound as a nightmare or a cozy respite, some of us were trapped in our homes for days. If Northern Virginia is hit with another monster snow storm this winter, VDOT will do a much better job of clearing local streets, a VDOT official promised at a Mason District Town Hall meeting Thursday evening convened by Mason Supervisor Penny Gross.
VDOT will have a new “automatic vehicle locator system” in place to better monitor snow removal contractors, Larry Humphries, transportation operations manager for VDOT’s Fairfax Maintenance Division, told a roomful of citizens, many of them with complaints about VDOT’s lack of response during last February’s blizzard, which dumped four feet of snow on the area.
“If you expect bare pavement in every storm, you’re not going to get it,” he said, especially when there is more than 12 inches of now, there are trees down, the snow freezes. “We do the best we can with what we have.”
VDOT got many, many calls from people complaining that VDOT missed their street. The plows are 11 feet wide, and they can’t get through narrower streets ending in a cul-de-sac if cars are lining both sides of the street. Plows also can’t get through when cars get stuck and owners leave them in the street. A police officer in the audience said, “We will tow abandoned cars if we can get to them.” And Gross advised, “If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out.”
It would be helpful if, before a snow storm, residents put their cars in the driveway and negotiate with their neighbors to move all the cars to one side of a street. One resident wondered why the county can’t require one-side parking before a storm. Gross said Fairfax County can’t mandate that but could issue an advisory to residents.
In response to the complaints about huge mountains of snow, Humphries said, “when you have 40 inches of snow, there is absolutely nowhere to put it.” Gross said she remembered a major snowstorm in 1966 when dump trucks piled snow onto the frozen Potomac River. “We can’t do that now. It’s an environmental hazard,” she said.
Humpries noted VDOT received many complaints after the snow melted about damage to walls, sprinkler systems, lights, and landscaping caused by snowplows. If those structures and plantings were in the right of way and the owner didn’t get a permit, VDOT won’t repair the damage, he said.
If you have a problem with snow removal next winter, or any issues with the road maintenance, here’s VDOT’s complaint number: 703/383-VDOT.