State Police step up effort to slow down drivers

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(Host) Vermont State Police say Interstate 89 has become too dangerous during winter storms. They intend to do something about it with saturation patrols designed to slow down traffic.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports.

(Sneyd) This winter has been colder and snowier than normal and that has made driving worse than ever.

Especially for the state police who patrol Interstate 89. All of the big highways in Vermont are bad. But the most trouble is on the stretch of I-89 between Burlington and Barre.

Captain Dan Troidl is in charge of the Williston barracks, which oversees that stretch of the interstate.

(Troidl) “We’re having cruisers hit up on the interstate like we’ve never had before. … We’ve had five since December 23rd. We got a rescue vehicle hit. One night I think it was two weeks ago, … during a Friday night storm, I think we had around 40 cars just in Williston slide off the road. Almost all of ‘em are traveling too fast for conditions. And a lot of ‘em are ending up in the median from the passing lane. They’re just driving too fast out there.”

(Host) In each case where a cruiser was hit, a trooper was already pulled over with emergency lights on assisting with an accident. There have been some minor injuries.

Vermont Transportation Agency plow trucks have also been hit a couple of times this winter.

Scott Rogers is director of the VTrans operations division. He says roads are going to be snow covered in the middle of a storm.

(Rogers) “We try to provide a surface on which vehicles can operate safely at approximately 45 miles an hour, which is where we came up with the 45 mile an hour advisory on the interstate. Basically what that means is during an average storm, there will be snow on the roads, people who drive slowly and safely according to conditions should expect to be able to go about 45 miles per hour.”

(Sneyd) Rogers says VTrans has changed the way it uses salt on the state’s roads. The agency is trying to reduce its use of salt by 10 percent.

He says crews have changed the times during a storm when they put down salt, timing it for when it will be most effective. He says that actually makes the roads safer.

Both VTrans and the state police say the problem is speed. With as many as 52,000 vehicles on I-89 in the Burlington area, speeding cars on a slick highway are a bad combination.

That’s why state police have started saturated patrols on the most heavily-traveled portions of I-89 in Chittenden and Washington counties.

State police says tickets will be handed out until drivers get the message to slow down.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.


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