FREDERICKSBURG, Va. — Back in January, a crippling snowstorm stranded drivers for hours along Interstate 95 in northern Virginia. Now, as we head into the winter months, Virginia transportation officials say they are taking new steps to make sure it never happens again.
On Monday, Jan. 3, the snarl started in the morning after a tractor-trailer jackknifed and more tractor trailers followed suit. As the storm started, 10 inches of snow fell in a short amount of time, VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich told reporters on Jan. 4.
Drivers were stuck in their cars for overnight. Many of them were without food, water or a way to stay warm. On Tuesday, Virginia State Police told us their plans to make sure the traffic nightmare won't repeat.
First, one of the problems in the storm was no one in leadership knew the extent of how bad things were. Traffic cameras in the area had lost power because of the storm. VSP now says they have a number of drones they can fly to see traffic incidents, and plan for detours.
Secondly, Virginia officials across agencies are addressing internal communication issues. During an emergency like the one we saw in January, VSP, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Virginia Office of Emergency Management (OEM) plan to all work in the same room, so everyone is on the same page.
The plan also calls for cutting the red tape when it comes to VDOT hiring contractors for road pre-treating and snow removal, possibly with higher pay and sign-on bonuses.
Virginia officials say they are also working to improve external communication as well, doing a better job letting the public know what's going on. An after-action report completed a few months after the I-95 standstill found that Virginia officials did not do enough to warn drivers about the horrendous delays and tie-ups on the interstate. The report recommended more compelling messages with a more authoritative tone.
All of this won't stop the next big storm, but leaders hope it will minimize its effects.
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