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MCDOT Answers Questions About the Order for Plowing County Roads

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There is a misperception that there is always a predetermined order for clearing neighborhood streets and non-emergency roads that results in the same streets being plowed “first” or “last” in every storm. In fact, there is no street that is always first or always last. Here’s why.


MCDOT’s Division of Highway Services (DHS) has established 220 individual plow routes that were optimized for efficiency and safety. The ideal routing minimizes left turns, covers the route distance by driving the fewest miles, and takes into account topography, cul-de-sacs and other local factors. The turn-by-turn directions for each of these plow routes has been loaded onto a navigation device and is provided to every plow driver during a storm.


In smaller storms of up to about three inches of snow, DHS uses its own crews and trucks for plowing and typically only one truck is assigned to each plow route. In this case, the truck follows the prescribed turn-by-turn directions for the optimal routing, starting at a specified point and ending at a specified point. Because these storms are cleared relatively quickly, there typically isn’t a significant difference between when the first and last streets in a plow route are completed.


In the case of larger storms that result in three inches or more of snow, DHS brings in additional resources and contractors. Depending on the size of the storm, DHS may then assign two, three, four or even more trucks to each plow route. In this case, these multiple trucks are assigned by supervisors to enter the plow route at different points along the route, based on conditions and resource availability, to work simultaneously to clear the roads -- so there is no street that is always first or always last.  In fact, with multiple trucks at work, any street within a plow route could be cleared earlier than other streets along the route.


Clearing snow is both a science and an art. That is why DHS tailors its response to each unique storm based on its particular characteristics. DHS has contracts in place to immediately ramp up resources as needed in major storms – and it does not hesitate to do so. During 2010’s Snowmageddon, DHS had 1,000 pieces of equipment clearing County roads.


Keep in mind that MCDOT plows 5,200 lane miles of County-owned and maintained roads. The Maryland State Highway Administration clears snow from all numbered roads in the County – most of the main routes – such as Georgia Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, Rockville Pike, etc.

Release ID: 17-011
Media Contact: Esther Bowring 240-777-7155