Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If it snows today, S.C. plows will rip up road reflectors, and the DOT knows this

Rip up, replace, repeat

Posted by Corey Hutchins on Tue, Jan 28, 2014 at 1:41 PM

This road reflector sees snowplows in its nightmares - FLICKR USER ZAHEERM
  • Flickr user zaheerm
  • This road reflector sees snowplows in its nightmares

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has declared a state of emergency as snowmageddon descends on South Carolina. Residents will rush to Walmart — if they haven't already — and all eyes will gaze upwards for the single snow flake that stops traffic dead, closes businesses, schools and offices. The eye rolls of Northern transplants will shake the Ravenel Bridge.

But here's one thing you might not know: if it snows today, snow plows all over the state will tear up and destroy those plastic yellow road reflectors on nearly every road they drive. The S.C. Department of Transportation knows this, too.

The reflectors cost $175 per mile for a typical two-lane road. After a snowstorm in 2011, the DOT replaced about 10,000 miles of them. The agency shifted money around to deal with the costs.

There is a snowplow-proof product on the market, but it costs way more than the ones the state already use. So South Carolina resorts to a rip-up-and-replace model every time it snows.

“It boils down to the economics of it,” a DOT spokesman told me a couple years ago. “We could protect it, but I could replace that one marker 15 times for what it would cost me to place an additional snow-plowable marker in.” That was back in 2011 when, that year, he said many of the reflectors on South Carolina roadways probably got torn up and had to be replaced. They don’t recover the old ones, because once the plow blade hits it, it’s kaput.

I asked a DOT spokesman once what state leaders here could maybe do about something like this that just seems so stupid.

“Get people to stop complaining about their taxes,” he jokingly said before getting more serious. “We’ve had the lowest gas tax in the country since 1987 and people complain that we don’t have services. People want a free lunch, they want the services, but then they don’t want to pay taxes. That’s government in general. I don’t know how they figure this out. Sure, I don’t want to pay higher taxes, but I want my traffic lights to work and things like that.”



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