VDOT getting ready for winter

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Last year the Virginia Department of Transportation opted to consolidate various roads headquarters in Grayson County.

Now officials can look back at what they learned.

The Grayson Board of Supervisors asked Mathew Cox of VDOT to update them on what was learned during the previous year’s winter weather when fewer maintenance trucks were on the road.

VDOT left only two county road headquarters after September 2007 — down from four.

The two remaining headquarters are at Volney, which covers the western end of the county, and Baywood, covering the eastern end. The office at Speedwell in Wythe County covers northern Grayson.

“Going through one winter was a good experience,” Cox told the supervisors this month. “We had a lot of new people in different areas... but a big advantage was the Independence lot is utilized as a staging area.”

The staging area provided a meeting point for all trucks to reload on salt and to spread throughout the county’s roads.

“This was the convergence point for all three locations,” he said.

At first, VDOT representatives were seeing inconsistencies in how long it took crews to clear certain roadways, Cox said, but it became better throughout the winter season.

“We were able to set up a crew from each area to report directly to Independence and be responsible for certain areas. At first there was some confusion on boundaries and such, but later we did some trade-offs on who can handle which roads better.”

Cox added that two new full-time positions have been added to each headquarters, with several “emergency” workers on standby.

Grayson has already experienced a few snow showers early this winter season. Cox said he was impressed overall with the workers.

One VDOT plan for Grayson is to use brine to pre-treat primary and some secondary roads, beginning in early January. VDOT is working to be able to mix ingredients needed to have a storage of brine at Independence.

The pre-treatment process “will enable us to get ahead of the storm.”

Extra manpower will be available.

“We have temporary emergency help to assist with snow removal,” he said. “We contract with local folks who supply various pieces of equipment... We feel pretty confident that we are ready to do what we need to in terms of snow removal.”

Supervisor Doug Carrico commended VDOT on a job well done during two previous storms this year.

Carrico said he was in Elk Creek both times and was impressed with the number of VDOT trucks on the road.

Supervisor Larry Bartlett agreed, noting that he saw VDOT trucks on the road as he was heading to the board meeting.

“This aggressive approach is tremendous,” said Bartlett.

Supervisors Chairman Mike Maynard questioned how many personnel removing snow were outside contractors, versus actual VDOT employees.

Cox said 22 contractors are on call with equipment that’s available 24 hours a day.

Everything from trucks to four-wheel drive tractors is available, should VDOT need the assistance.

“It just varies by the area,” he said. “It is left up to the area superintendent to control when and if they are called out.”

Cox added that VDOT’s main focus is always on primary roads with highest traffic flow. Next priority are the higher traffic flow secondary roads.

Maynard asked at what point contractors are contacted when bad weather is predicted.

“It varies by incident,” Cox replied. “There is no set plan, as each incident is different.”

Contractors are usually called out if VDOT trucks realize they are overwhelmed by the amount of snowfall.

Cox said he is comfortable that roads will be adequately handled during bad weather.

“It was always our goal to provide the same quality service we had always had.”