Long before the first snowflake of winter, MTA Bridges and Tunnels employees are hard at work preparing for the onset of winter and all its potentially hazardous road conditions.
The agency has more than 6,000 tons of roadway deicer, a fleet of 80 snow vehicles and hundreds of snow-trained employees ready for whatever the winter of 2007 may have in store for New York City.
"The safety of our customers is our chief concern, " said MTA Bridges and Tunnels Acting President David Moretti. "We are proud of our facility employees, who have proven expertise in dealing with whatever Mother Nature sends our way."
The prep work actually begins just after the end of the previous winter, when all snow-related equipment is cleaned, oiled, and repaired as needed. As summer draws to a close, the equipment goes through another maintenance check to ensure it's ready to roll. Certain snow vehicles perform multiple tasks throughout the year, serving as safety back-up trucks during construction or maintenance activities. Each of these vehicles can be quickly converted to snow vehicles with plows and other equipment to take on a winter storm.
State-of-the-art equipment and information also help facility staff respond quickly to the effects of winter precipitation. Weather detection systems on the facilities provide data not only about air temperature, moisture and wind velocity, but sensors embedded in the roadways also gauge the deck temperature, the presence of moisture and its salinity. This system provides early warning of a freezing condition, which can be prevented or reduced by deicing the roadway deck before the buildup of ice and snow begins. Snow trucks have onboard computers that regulate the amount of deicer spread on a roadway, so there is an even application. The system also measures the amount of deicer used so that inventories can be replenished efficiently and economically.
Of course, there's the salt itself: the roadway deicer product used to melt snow and ice on MTA's bridges and tunnels contains an anti-corrosive additive that minimizes corrosion to the structural steel of the agency's bridges. As part of the seasonal preparation, the "salt dome" storage area is inspected and additional deicer is ordered to top off inventories. The new deicer supply is rotated and mixed with remaining deicer from last season in order to break up any clumps that might interfere with proper spreading.
Prior to rolling out vehicles to manage snow or sleet conditions, facility personnel closely check all roadway areas for possible hazards; the requisite supply of gloves, safety goggles, ice choppers, shovels, blankets and cots are kept on hand for maintenance crews, snow drivers and Bridge and Tunnel officers, all of whom are thoroughly briefed on procedures and potential extreme weather scenarios.
Each facility has its own unique challenges. For example, the 71-year-old Triborough Bridge has three spans with multiple ramps-Manhattan, Bronx, Queens-a viaduct, pedestrian walkways and two toll plazas.
The nine crossings owned and managed by MTA Bridges and Tunnels are: Triborough, Henry Hudson, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano-Narrows, Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridges, and the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery Tunnels.