Commissioner Simpson testified at Assembly hearing on state’s winter storm operations
(Trenton) - New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson testified today at an Assembly Transportation Committee hearing, where he provided an opening statement and fielded questions about how the state responded to the extraordinarily intense blizzard that hit New Jersey on December 26-27, 2010.
Simpson said a coordinated fight by multiple agencies rescued hundreds of stranded motorists, assisted thousands of others and kept almost all roads passable throughout one of the ten worst storms in a century. He specifically thanked the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority, NJ TRANSIT and the thousands of state employees and private contractors who worked tirelessly to keep New Jersey residents safe.
“Our personnel did an outstanding job, given the nightmarish conditions that Mother Nature handed us. This storm tested the limits of our physical assets, but it did not test the limits of the ingenuity and endurance of our people,” Simpson said in his prepared remarks.
Simpson also testified that immediately after blizzard operations ended, the Department began in-depth discussions to evaluate the performance of all agencies and identify improvements. “Each snow event, and especially this blizzard, serves as a learning experience for improving upon the performance for future events,” he said.
Among the findings and recommendations:
• All responders will now use standardized terminology to report roadway conditions
• Additional NJDOT employees will be deployed to assess and report real-time road conditions
• Every four-wheel-drive vehicle in the NJDOT fleet has been assigned an on-call driver to assist in a major snow or other emergency
• Plows, spreaders and other snow-fighting equipment are being tracked by magnetic boards
• New radios with enhanced communications and global positioning capability will be installed later this year on all NJDOT trucks
• A conference room at the Statewide Transportation Management Center in Woodbridge has been converted to an integrated “Transportation Situation Room” and will be staffed during emergencies by senior leadership from NJDOT and other agencies to better coordinate responses
NJDOT and other state agencies fought the storm with 2,600 pieces of equipment and succeeded in keeping 95 percent of all state roadways open to traffic throughout the storm that dumped more than 30 inches of snow in some areas in about 12 hours.