COPPELL –– Texas Department of Transportation crews were again spread across North Texas on Tuesday removing remaining ice from roadways and bridges.
The primary targets of the morning’s efforts were around the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and the freeways that make up the DFW Connector Project in Denton and Tarrant counties. Both of these saw some of the region’s largest ice accumulations during Winter Storm Cleon.
News 8 spotted crews using three motor graders along northbound Texas State Highway 121 and the Interstate 635 interchange. The machines shave down layers of ice before TxDOT crews follow up with salt and sand to treat any remaining ice.
"Based on the predictions, we were prepared. We were actually over-prepared," said TxDOT spokeswoman Jodi Hodges. "We had enough material for a multi-day event. We never ran out of material. So, overall, I'd say we had an 'A.'"
Meanwhile, motorists in Tarrant County describe long delays to their commute. Steve Saldana estimated that he would be on the road three hours for a trip that usually takes just one. Despite the delay,
“I think they’ve handled it as good as you can do for a state that isn’t used to this kind of weather,” Saldana said.
Driver Joel Ponce had the opposite opinion, saying, “I don’t think they’ve done enough on the bridges.
During interview on News 8 Daybreak, Hodges said the department was caught off guard by the amount of precipitation that fell over North Texas. Hodges said there were also efforts to pre-treat the roads. When the ice became worse than even what was predicted by the National Weather Service, TxDOT called in crews from as far as Corpus Christi and Amarillo.
“It was actually very much more widespread than North Texas, it went from El Paso to Texarkana, about 850 miles,” Hodges said. “We did put all of our equipment and manpower that we could throughout the state on this event.”
The state dispatched 1,700 employees and 1,100 pieces of equipment to help clear the roads and aid stranded passengers. The Department of Public Safety had emergency operation centers open and the Red Cross was prepared to deploy if needed, Hodges said.
Still, some drivers reported being stranded for dozens of hours on top of cobblestone ice. Hodges defended TxDOT’s efforts, saying that crews did as much as possible to keep the state’s roads safe and clear.
“I believe we’ve been very flexible in moving equipment and materials and manpower to North Texas to improve these conditions as soon as possible,” Hodges said. “It’s taken our crews 30 minutes to an hour per bridge deck to scrape and hammer that ice away. It’s hit really hard and it’s taken a lot of individual efforts to get those bridges clear.”
By comparison, a northern state such as Minnesota says it has sufficient winter equipment and personnel to respond to all conditions without shifting equipment. But here, where severe winter events are rare, TxDOT's mission is different.
"TxDOT's goal is to put as much money to the pavement as possible," Hodges said.
A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Transportation said it sets the bar for success by conducting market research to understand how quickly the public expects roads to be cleared. A TxDOT spokesperson in Austin was not immediately aware if the agency conducts similar research.
But TxDOT did point to its Facebook page to show us how a large number of comments giving them a thumbs up for the job they did.