From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos
Over the past few years, Connecticut has seen its fair share of natural disasters. From Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter to Hurricane Sandy and the Blizzard of 2013, our communities have faced some challenging times, but we band together and come out stronger on the other side. This week, I would like to review what happened in the latest storm and some new tools that you can use to stay informed with current traffic conditions.
Waking up that Saturday morning, many of us were surprised to see two or three feet of snow on our lawns and streets, effectively halting daily life for several days. Students, employees and many others were asked to stay home during several work days because the snowfall was near record levels. Before the storm, the state reported that it had over 800 plows ready to travel state roads and remove snow, including some private contractors. Nearly 100 members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were also called in with 25 pieces of equipment to assist some of the more hard hit towns and cities.
For several days last week, much of I-84 was backed up because of efforts to remove snow from the roadway. It appears that the snow removal operation was conducted during the day and even during rush hour when the road is normally full of commuters driving home. Some reported that their normal 20 minute commute became a two hour ordeal.
I reached out to the Commissioner’s Office at the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) for more information as to why the operation was not conducted at night when traffic levels would have been much lower. It turns out that two lanes were covered with snow, presenting a dangerous situation for drivers. The DOT understood that clearing the snow would cause inconvenience, but concerns for public safety outweighed the option of pushing back the operation.
In order to stay informed of traffic conditions and adjust your route accordingly, the DOT offers email updates and has even begun to offer smartphone apps for traffic and rail information. To sign up for E-Traffic Alerts, simply visit the DOT website and register your email address. Also at this website, you can scan the QR code graphic that will take you to the app store where you can download the app for either iPhone or Android smartphones. These range in cost from free to $2.99.
One of these apps is called the Connecticut Traffic Advisor which helps stay up to date with current traffic conditions on state roads. The information comes directly from the DOT, including live traffic cameras from around the state, accident reports, construction details, and previews of message signs. It also allows you to share the camera images with others by email or text. Other helpful resources include the Google Maps, Connecticut MultiCam, RoadAhead and INRIX Traffic apps.
While many are hopeful that these storms decrease in frequency, our state must be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently. For the near record amount of snow we received during this blizzard, the cleanup was challenging and some public works departments were overwhelmed. In an effort to keep up to date with traffic conditions, it may be worth reviewing the new tools that are available on the DOT website. To learn more or sign up for these traffic and travel mobile apps and e-alerts, please visit the state Department of Transportation website at www.ct.gov/DOT.
Sen. Witkos (www.SenatorWitkos.com) represents the 8th Senate District, including the communities of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. He can be reached by phone at 1-800-842-1421 or by email at Kevin.Witkos@cga.ct.gov.