WSDOT, troopers working on joint snow response plan

WSDOT, troopers working on joint snow response plan
SEATTLE -- The state is working on a plan to avoid a snow storm disaster on the roads like the one seen last month.

The state Department of Transportation is experimenting with a new strategy that teams troopers with snow plows. The idea is to have troopers lead the way and part the sea of traffic so plows and tow trucks can reach problem spots.

The WSDOT wants to avoid another disastrous snow storm like the one seen last month. On Nov. 22, a seemingly endless backup lined miles of Interstate 5 for miles.

"I had to spend the night in my truck, cause i was trying to drive home and it was so horrible," said driver Knut Christiansen.

Many of the problems involved buses and semis that crashed, blocking other cars and snow plows.

"I knew I was in trouble when there was a bus that was stuck in front of me," said driver Greg Dean. "I lost complete traction, spun out."

As the traffic increased, transportation crews had no way to reach them.

"We're stuck in the same congestion that everybody else is. And so we found it was taking hours for our vehicles to get to the collision scene to help state patrol," said DOT spokesperson Dave McCormick.

Now DOT is teaming up with state patrol. When a snow storm hits, trooper will partner up with a snowplow, and try to be the first on the scene to clear big accidents and get traffic moving again as soon as possible.

"Us following them just is going to help," said McCormick.

Another idea involves converting pickups into mini-sanders, which can weave through traffic more easily than full-size models. DOT says it's a low-cost option that could have a sizable impact.

The department also wants to look at the conditions under which chains will be made mandatory, even though right now there are no safe areas on Puget Sound highways to put them on.

The DOT says these changes should improve response. But because each storm is different, road crews are reluctant to make promises they can't keep.

"We're going to be ready the next big snowstorm to try it out," said McCormick.

The experiment will get a trial run in King County this winter. If it works, it could be expanded to other areas around the state.