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VDOT displays snow arsenal
With AccuWeather predicting a big winter for 'I-95 cities,' Virginia agency gets set to battle snow, ice

 Radio station WFVA reporter Ted Schubel photographs in one of two new VDOT road salt storage facilities.
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Date published: 12/13/2012

BY SCOTT SHENK

The Christmas season means something a little different for the Virginia Department of Transportation. It means it's time to get ready for snowstorms.

Last winter was mild, with VDOT spending $63.8 million handling snowy roads, just over half of its total winter maintenance budget.

The two previous winters, though, were costly. VDOT spent more than $200 million each of those years treating roads during snowstorms.

There's no telling what will happen this year, but AccuWeather has predicted a snowy winter for "I-95 cities" from Richmond to New York, according to its winter outlook, released in August.

Either way, VDOT's 14-county Fredericksburg District now has a little more firepower to battle area roads during snowstorms. Two new storage facilities--not the traditional domes, which cost more to build--recently opened at VDOT's maintenance training academy off Mudd Tavern Road in Spotsylvania.

The $2.5 million storage facilities are big--70 feet wide and stretching 220 feet long. They can hold a combined 15,000 tons of salt, said VDOT's Marcie Parker. The district has 19 other such storage facilities of various sizes.

The new salt storage is in the Thornburg area near U.S. 1 and Interstate 95, adding another prime location where crews can load their trucks with salt and other chemicals used to battle snowy roads.

The Fredericksburg District has a $6.6 million winter budget, with 900 pieces of equipment to do the heavy work.

Statewide, VDOT has a $145 million winter maintenance budget.

The highway department has already spent some of its snow season budget. Superstorm Sandy dumped 2 feet of snow in some parts of the state. VDOT spent some $3.3 million treating roads in those areas.

VDOT uses technology to help battle snowstorms, too. The department uses road sensors and video to determine when roads might be freezing.

VDOT also uses the Internet, providing updated information on its 511 website (511virginia.org) during storms.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Email: sshenk@freelancestar.com