Areas throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia receive between 10 and 50 inches of snowfall from winter storms each winter season. These snowstorms have an enormous impact on Virginia’s roadways, and the Pocahontas Parkway in Richmond is no exception. In fact, in December 2018, Richmond experienced a near record-breaking 12-inches of snow in 14 hours. In order to best serve travelers and provide a safe operating roadway for our users, Globalvia places an enormous emphasis on winter maintenance and snow removal operations. We take a proactive approach to winter maintenance operations so that all staff members are fully prepared when a record-breaking storm hits Richmond.
Globalvia has equipped its winter maintenance staff with top-of-the-line snow removal equipment. Each RAM 5500 utility maintenance vehicle is outfitted with a BOSS VBX 8000 electric salt spreader and a 91⁄2 -foot snowplow allowing our in-house team to perform pre-treatment and snowplowing capabilities along the Pocahontas Parkway. However, successful winter maintenance operations don’t just start the day before a snowstorm – the staff begins preparing for winter operations in the Fall.
In October, the maintenance team will carefully calibrate the salt spreaders to verify that the proper amount of salt is being dispensed when the units are activated. By verifying that the amount of salt dispensed matches the manufacturer’s prescribed quantity, we are ensuring adequate salt coverage and pre-treatment along the Pocahontas Parkway. Before each winter, new snowplow blades are installed on each of our 91⁄2 -foot snowplows. An additional stock of blades is ordered to allow the team to change blades even amidst a snowstorm. These tasks are then repeated after each snow event – allowing our maintenance team to be prepared for the next snowstorm.
For more severe winter storms, Globalvia has partnered with RJ Smith – a premier snow removal contractor in Virginia. RJ Smith provides Globalvia and the Pocahontas Parkway with dump trucks fully equipped with 3-ton mechanical salt spreaders and 11-foot snowplows. Along with our in-house equipment, these machines are exercised throughout the year and calibrated each October.
How We Prepare
In preparing for a winter storm, the safety of all Globalvia staff members and the traveling public are of the utmost importance. How our maintenance staff prepares for a storm plays a vital role
in the overall safety of all Pocahontas Parkway stakeholders. Therefore, the preparation phase of a winter snowstorm is the most crucial for ensuring the overall success of the operation.
In the days leading up to a snowstorm, we rely on excellent communication between Globalvia maintenance staff and our snow removal contractor so that all parties are aware of the operational approach to a potential storm. We utilize a weather service that provides us with live weather conditions and direct access to a meteorologist for the most up-to-date and educated information regarding the storm.
If it’s determined that the roadway will be impacted by the storm, the maintenance staff will meet to create a plan-of-attack. This meeting is used to determine how many snow trucks will be mobilized, how much salt will be used for pre-treatment, and how resources will be scheduled to maximize efficiency and safety during a storm. It’s important that each maintenance staff member is well-rested and prepared to focus on the task-at-hand for long stretches of time.
In the hours leading up to a storm, all pre-determined trucks are mobilized; each salt spreader is filled with several tons of salt so that they are ready to treat the road for potentially icy conditions. Once all salt spreaders are loaded, the maintenance staff will move the trucks to strategic locations throughout the Pocahontas Parkway. These trucks will remain on standby until the order is given to begin pre-treatment.
Strategic Snow Removal
During the early stages of a snowstorm, an emphasis is placed on treating all concrete and bridge structures with a rock salt treatment to prevent precipitation from freezing on contact and creating unsafe icy conditions. Salt spreading trucks are activated and will begin spreading salt on all concrete surfaces, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial bridge over the James River. After concrete surfaces receive a salt treatment, Globalvia maintenance staff will direct the trucks to begin spreading salt on asphalt surfaces. Once a truck unloads all the salt in its spreader, the driver will return to the salt storage shed to reload. Trucks are activated in a staggered manner in order to prevent all trucks from going empty simultaneously.
If snow begins to accumulate on the roadway’s surface, all activated trucks will lower their snowplows and begin pushing the snow off the traveling surface into the roadway’s shoulder. This operation is performed strategically, with areas of the roadway receiving more attention than others based on travel trends. In a severe storm, we employ an echelon snow plowing tactic where trucks can clear the snow from multiple lanes simultaneously.
Snow removal operations will continue for the duration of the storm until the Pocahontas Parkway is clear and safe for travel. Globalvia cannot control the weather, but we can control our preparation and how we execute the plan during a winter storm. We will continue to work safely and efficiently while providing our users with the safest roadway in Virginia.