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SHA adds weapons to battle winter weather

As the region prepares for possible inclement weather during the Thanksgiving and Hanukkah holidays, the State Highway Administration unveiled a beefed-up arsenal Tuesday for tracking and battling winter storms.

SHA spokeswoman Valerie Burnette Edgar said the administration has about 2,400 pieces of equipment available this season to fight storms, including two double-winged snowplows added this year.

The two plows, each with a front blade and two side blades, cost about $200,000 apiece, and the SHA now has three in its fleet, Edgar said.

She said the SHA and the Maryland Transportation Authority have added about 15 mounted traffic cameras over the past year to help monitor roadway conditions — most of them positioned on the Bay Bridge.

The additions bring the administration's camera total to 370. Together with cameras used by local jurisdictions that partner with the SHA, the administration now has access to 700 cameras eyeing the roadways, as well as portable cameras that workers use when traveling in the field.

"Combined, this really helps us, particularly during wintertime. If there's an incident in a place we can't get to, we can see how large an incident it is, whether it's a multi-vehicle" incident, Edgar said. "It just helps us a lot with our response."

She said the agency also taps a group of volunteer motorists, the Snow Squad, who work to notify officials if they see incidents while driving their regular routes. The squad was launched two years ago, Edgar said, after the 2010 double snowstorms, but has scarcely been in use since then because of mild winters.

"It's like a call center, per se," she said, "but we've given them a little bit of guidance and we can use our voice-detect alert system to help relay [their] information to our operations center. ... It gives one more set of eyes on the road."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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