In time for the holiday season, but before there’s any measurable snow in the forecast, Arlington officials have unveiled a new snow plowing map intended to track snow clearing activity in the county.
The map is the successor to a previous online snow cleaning map — which didn’t work correctly, caused confusion following a blizzard in 2016 and was ultimately removed from the county website.
The new map is not perfect, County Manager Mark Schwartz acknowledged during a presentation at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, but should prove useful and reflects an “innovation culture” in county government.
The map does not represent whether a street is clear of snow, but instead shows snow plow activity down to the street level. It also links to Arlington’s traffic cameras.
The map is not currently active and will have other limitations during snow events. It displays data on a 15 minute delay, for instance, and will not reflect activity by plows contracted by the county to respond to major snowfalls.
County officials touted other snow response changes during the meeting, including the use of new electric salt spreaders, which are said to be easier to use and maintain while also being more environmentally friendly than the old gasoline-powered spreaders.
The full Arlington County press release about its Winter 2019-2020 initial snow preparations is below, after the jump.
The 2019-20 forecast is for a near-average winter, but Arlington always prepares for the extremes. After several weather-related records fell this summer, the County looks to avoid any surprise from the cold.
New Year, New Tools — Watch the Plowing Remotely
When heavy snow does arrive, Arlington residents will be able to follow the response comfortably from any preferred screen. An online storm response map will be deployed in near real-time, showing plow activity across the County based on data sent directly from trucks in operation. Each pass on a roadway will be represented by a line that increases in thickness the more times a truck passes, indicating expanding areas of concentrated plowing activity.
A predictive, informative tool, the map will not declare roads “cleared” or “passable” — just that crews are on the job, deployed in a host of neighborhoods and making progress. The County’s live-streaming traffic cameras are also incorporated in the map for a bird’s-eye view. Regardless of progress in snow fighting tools, motorists should always use caution traveling during and after a storm.
Residents reporting specific concerns through the County’s well-known online Snow Issues Form will now be able to upload a photo of trouble spots, helping crews and dispatchers more quickly locate the issue.
Arlington County recently took responsibility for Boundary Channel Drive near the Pentagon and I-395. Keep in mind, the new storm response map will not show response efforts on roadways maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, including Washington Boulevard and Lee Highway. See the state roads maintained by VDOT in Arlington.
In addition to four larger capacity brine units (325-gallons) acquired specifically for narrower roads, the County has added more electric salt spreaders and two sets of rubber-ceramic plow blades to its inventory.
Arlington partners with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to ensure the safest possible use of road salt while protecting the region’s watershed.
Before, During and After the Storm
Arlington snow operations involve several departments across the County as well as external partners, representing several hundred employees who work around-the-clock to keep core infrastructure and services running. Once a forecast calls for winter weather — snow, ice or freezing rain — Arlington crews follow the snow removal process and phases.
The County’s snow-fighting inventory includes 46 trucks equipped with a salt spreader and plow blade. Additional contractor equipment is available depending on the severity of the storm.
The County will continue to clear over 3.5 miles of protected bike lanes and 10 miles of multi-use trails this winter season. Arlington maintains a commitment to supporting a range of transportation options year-round, and treats the high-volume, multi-use trails with the same priority and response time as primary arterial streets. Trail and lane conditions are reported frequently by BikeArlington on social media. Learn more about how the Department of Parks & Rec clears snow on Arlington’s trails.
Lend a Hand
Residents play a vital role in dealing with winter’s fallout in Arlington. The County’s Snow Removal Ordinance requires all property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within 24 hours after the end of the storm for snowfalls of less than 6 inches, or 36 hours for those greater than 6 inches.
Other ways to assist when bad winter weather sets in:
- Coordinate with neighbors to park cars on one side of the street, where feasible, or avoid on-street parking so snowplow operators can efficiently clear a wider span of roadway
- Don’t park “head in” on cul-de-sacs so plows have more room to maneuver
- Clear sidewalks, fire hydrants and storm drains, tossing snow toward buildings, not the street, BUT
- Wait for plows to come by before clearing snow from the front of driveways, to minimize the amount pushed back by plows
- Stay home and out of the car or use mass transit only to reduce the number of potentially stranded vehicles
- Apply only the recommended minimal amount of chemical de-icers on sidewalks and driveways to attain safe footing
- Stay connected through the County’s Snow and Ice Central page and DES social media platforms for updates on snow phases, transportation, trash and other important notifications. Follow @ArlingtonDES on Twitter and Facebook.
The Department of Environmental Services briefed the County Board on this year’s snow response plans at its Recessed Meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19.