Caltrans geared up for winter | SierraSun.com

Caltrans geared up for winter

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

KINGVALE and#8212; An army of about 600 employees, 355 plows, blowers, and other equipment, 12 maintenance stations and the combined efforts of California Highway Patrol, Nevada Department of Transportation and local government will scour roughly 1,330 lane-miles of mountain roads in the region this winter, in hopes of keeping roads open and safe through the snow.

And according to Caltrans, after a brief funding scare, that army will have all the funding and resources it needs.

and#8220;There were some concerns that Caltrans is going through lean times, but be assured, we are committed to keeping the same level of service as in the past and#8212; especially on the I-80 and I-50 corridors,and#8221; said Steve Kirkpatrick, deputy district director of maintenance and traffic operations. and#8220;I-80 is really an economic lifeline into this state and for local businesses.and#8221;

And when storms blow in this winter, the way things work will reflect both the national and local economic priorities, said Stan Richins, Sutter Sierra maintenance manager, with priority during storms going to trucks on week days, and priority going to regular vehicular traffic on weekends.

and#8220;During the week it’s all about truckers, and on the weekends it’s all about skiers,and#8221; Richins said.

That is accomplished by varying the holds and metering of traffic Caltrans does during a storm, which helps them control the critical density of vehicles on the road in difficult conditions, Kirkpatrick said.

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Helping Caltrans keep a difficult storm situation from getting worse, Kirkpatrick said this year California Highway Patrol will put an officer at each chain control on Interstate 80 this winter.

This means less drivers will try and blow through the chain control, which often results in that person spinning out or wrecking, requiring them to close the road.

and#8220;Many other states along I-80 will actually drop gates and turn drivers back to the last town when there is too much snow for them to handle,and#8221; Kirkpatrick said. and#8220;That’s the last thing we want to do.and#8221;

Caltrans has also issued 134 encroachment permits for chain installers to work along the roadways this winter, he said.

and#8220;We’re not staying with the status quo and#8212; we’re always trying new ways to do it,and#8221; Kirkpatrick said.

At the meeting Wednesday, attended by representatives from Truckee, Tahoe City, and area ski resorts, Caltrans asked for help from those resorts in getting their customers chained up before they get on the freeway during storms, so they aren’t all trying to do it on I-80.

Truckee Mayor Carolyn Wallace Dee and Director of Public Works and Engineering Dan Wilkins were interested in communications and#8212;-including radio and electronic billboards.

Dee suggested that individual signs could carry individual messages along the interstate, rather than a blanket message for the whole region.

Wilkins inquired about the ability to post estimated arrival times along the route, as in the Bay Area and other ski resort areas in Colorado.

Kirkpatrick said Caltrans would look into those options, but the messages put up on those boards have to meet state standards.