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news release

Contact: Dave Brown
RELEASE: November 18, 1997

NJDOT prepared for winter season

Salt storage bins have been topped off and plow trucks readied as the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) completes its preparations for the upcoming 1997-98 winter weather season.

"Some people predict a mild winter this year, others do not. The long range predictions can be as reliable as a campaign-season poll. They should be taken with a grain of rock salt," said Gov. Christie Whitman. "This year, as usual, we hope for the best but prepare for the worst winter has to offer. In fact, we are better prepared than ever."

The Department has built additional salt storage buildings since last winter and increased the number of remote weather sensor stations that monitor roadway and atmospheric conditions, noted State Transportation Commissioner John J. Haley Jr.

The Governor and Commissioner Haley today inspected some of the NJDOT’s snow fighting equipment at the department’s West Trenton Maintenance Yard and pronounced the "troops" ready to fight the most severe weather should it hit.

"Meteorologists are abuzz about El Nino and its potential impacts on weather patterns this winter. Some feel we could be in for a lot of snow," Gov. Whitman said. "Even though last week’s snowfall int he northern part of the state was minor, it provided us with some good warm up runs. Any snowfall underscores the need for us to be ready at a moment’s notice. That’s why we prepare ourselves every year for the worst Mother Nature can throw at us."

The NJDOT begins the snow season with approximately 150,000 of salt on hand for use on New Jersey’s 10,700 lane miles of interstate and state highways. NJDOT also has 575,000 gallons of liquid calcium on hand, which is mixed in with the salt to increase its effectiveness.

The Department is continuing its efforts to increase salt storage capacity. Since last winter, five new salt storage buildings have been built, increasing storage capacity by 12,500 tons for a total storage capacity of 158,000 tons. Since 1994, NJDOT has more than doubled its salt storage capacity through construction of additional buildings.

"From a materials standpoint, we’re ready to fight the war on winter weather," Haley said. "As one prepares for a battle, a key factor is determining where your foe will be. And similar to the U.S. military, we’re using new technology to help us fight smarter."

The department has added an additional five remote weather sensor stations, bringing the total to 30, along the state highway system. These stations provide detailed information on weather and road conditions in specific regions of the state. The data provided by these stations includes air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, road and bridge surface temperatures, whether the pavement is wet or dry, whether the salt has been applied and the type and intensity of precipitation. A list of the sensor station locations has been attached.

These weather stations augment weather forecasts supplied by NJDOT by a weather forecasting company.

"For a compact state, we have a wide variety of weather," Haley noted. "A storm that produces an inch or two of snow in central New Jersey can blanket the elevated portions of northwestern New Jersey with a foot of snow. The remote weather sensor stations allow us to tailor our salting and plowing activities based on the conditions in the local area."

NJDOT has more than 600 trucks ready to plow snow and spread salt. In the event of a major storm, NJDOT can augment its forces with up to 1,000 contractor trucks. Contractors have been assigned specific highway segments and will be called out on an as-needed basis.

In addition, the department has more than 400 volunteer plow operators, drawn from the ranks of the state workforce, it can call out if needed. Volunteers must possess a commercial driver’s license and undergo special training for the safe operation of snow plows and salt-spreading equipment.

The NJDOT also coordinates snow removal activities with the state’s other transportation agencies and State Police from its Emergency Control Center, or Snow Room, located at department headquarters in Ewing Township. During a major snowstorm, representatives from NJ Transit, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, New Jersey Highway Authority (Garden State Parkway), South Jersey Transportation Authority (Atlantic City Expressway) and State Police staff the Snow Room to report problems immediately to NJDOT Snow Room staff, who can then quickly dispatch resources to help the hardest hit areas.

The Department has budgeted $10.4 million for winter weather operations in 1997-98.

To assist the NJDOT in its salting and plowing operations, motorists are reminded that parking along state highways is prohibited during storms. Individual driveways are not plowed or cleared by NJDOT forces. To prevent driveways from becoming blocked from plowed snow, residents should clear a portion of the highway shoulder immediately adjacent to their driveway (see attached diagram). This provides an area where snow from the plow truck can be deposited prior to reaching the driveway.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A special winter weather telephone number is available for media use only . The number, 609-530-2125, can be called by reporters to obtain information during winter storms. In order to keep a priority line open for the media, we ask that this number not be provided to the general public.

News media interested in a more extensive look at the NJDOT’s Snow Room operation can arrange for a tour through the NJDOT Communications Office at (609) 530-2124.

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