(Host) Starting this winter, buses and big trucks will be required to use tire chains during winter storms on certain Vermont highways.
Route 9 between Wilmington and Bennington is the first area where the mandate will take effect. And as VPR’s Susan Keese reports, transportation officials are looking at other spots where chains might help keep traffic moving on the worst days.
(Host) The stretch of Route 9 over Searsburg Mountain is part of a major truck route between Albany, New York, and Interstate 91. It’s also one of the most frequently closed roadways in the state.
Sue Minter is Vermont’s Deputy Transportation Secretary.
(Minter) "Really this started with a concern in the communities that border Searsburg Mountain that we are having real problems in winter snow events with tractor-trailers getting stuck. And when that happens there is a terrific tie-up on either side of the mountain."
(Keese) Minter says removing a jack-knifed tractor-trailer takes time. During that time, tourists and commuters are stuck, snowplows are blocked, and emergency vehicles can’t get through.
The Legislature passed a measure in 2010 allowing the state to require chains under some conditions.
But the law requires the state to provide an adequate pull-off area where truck and bus drivers can put the chains on.
In mountainous terrain, Minter says, pull-offs are needed on both sides of a mountain.
(Minter) "Which is not simple. It takes a significant amount of space, ‘cause we want to make sure we have space for trucks, several at a time, to pull over and be safe when they chain up."
(Keese) Minter says the state is negotiating with property owners for the necessary space along Route 9.
Officials are also looking at Route 11 near Bromley Mountain and at Route 4 near Killington. But no potential pull-off areas have yet been identified.
Minter says the state will use signs, public service announcements and announcements to truckers’ associations when the chain requirement is in effect.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.