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DOT Says Nor'easter Traffic Delays Not Its Fault

DOT officials say Wednesday evening's nor'easter traffic delays were caused by the storm's timing, not by the DOT response.
DOT officials say Wednesday evening's nor'easter traffic delays were caused by the storm's timing, not by the DOT response. Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. — Motorists reports of delays of more than five hours during Wednesday evening's nor'easter were not a result of the DOT's response to the storm but of the storm's timing, said the New York State Department of Transportation, which is responsible for clearing snow from many heavily trafficked state highways.

"The more cars on the road, the harder it is for our plow to get to where it needs to be. So if a car goes off the road and causes a backup, our plow gets caught in that backup, too, and we can't get out of it any easier than anyone else," said Sue Stepp, from the regional DOT office in Poughkeepsie.

"All of our resources were fully deployed. We actually applied salt to the roads as soon as the roads started, and then we began plowing as soon as there was enough accumulation to allow us to plow," Stepp said.

Commuters on the Taconic State Parkway took to Facebook on Wednesday evening, reporting hours-long delays on several state-maintained roads and cars scattered across roadways in slippery, icy conditions.

"I took Route 9 north from Briarcliff to Wappingers. Took 2.5 hours. Cars all over the roads. Was a hot mess," wrote Tracey Henn Howells, a Facebook user on the group page Commuters Taconic State Parkway CTSP . Users provide feedback on road conditions on the public group page.

In response to a Taconic lane closure warning posted on the page, Facebook user Mike Doyle wrote, "Stay away as far as you can! Haven't moved in 45 min."

On the same page, Merrette Rentmeester Sinnett wrote that her husband was "stuck on the Taconic" for five-and-a-half hours.

In all, "Commuters Taconic State Parkway CTSP" published 13 separate status updates with delays, lane closures and updates, beginning just before 4 p.m. and ending past 9 p.m.

Lewisboro officials were also critical of the DOT's response.

“The truth is that the DOT blew it,” Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons told The Daily Voice . “They didn’t send their trucks out until rush hour and by then they were stuck in traffic and everyone was stuck in the snow.”

A plow broke down on the Taconic State Parkway north, Stepp said. Other state roadways that allow tractor-trailers, unlike the Taconic, reported jack-knifed tractor-trailers at on- and off-ramps. However, Stepp said the volume of traffic during the peak of the storm was the DOT's biggest hurdle to getting roads plowed.

In all, Stepp said 28 plows were on the road during Wednesday's nor'easter, clearing about 622 miles of northern Westchester roads.

"We did everything we could," said Stepp. "When there's a traffic delay our plows are stuck in the same traffic you are. If you're stuck, we're stuck. The best advice we can give people is to keep their traveling at a minimum when the weather's bad."