Thursday, March 06, 2014

Discussion With AHTD

I spoke with Public Information Officer, Randy Ort, of AHTD today. I gathered that the problems that were seen following Sunday's winter storm are not being ignored. They heard your complaints. A few people have commented to me that once the roads dry and the sunshine returns, AHTD will forget about these problems. I do not think that will happen. They have a meeting planned for next week with the Arkansas Road Commission regarding the complaints. They also have meetings with members of the legislature. In addition, Governor Beebe is asking for some answers.

I was told that AHTD are planning to update their snow and ice removal plan. They have met with other states to discover methods, equipment, and procedures that they can incorporate into the plan in Arkansas. A new plan is coming soon.

Many of these same questions were raised earlier this season when AHTD was criticized for poor performance in December. This press release from December is worth reading: CLICK HERE. I would fully expect to see a similar press release following next week's meetings.

The only thing that concerned me about the discussion today was the distribution of the brand new belly plows. The state has purchased 6 new belly plows over the past year. According to AHTD:

"The new trucks are larger and heavier and have a plow blade mounted under the body of the truck, between the front and rear axles. The weight of the truck allows downward pressure to be placed on the blade, making it more effective in battling ice"

Out of the 6 new trucks, 5 are based in Harrison, AR and 1 in Little Rock. None are based in Northeast Arkansas. That seems odd to me. I asked why 5 are based in Harrison and Ort tells me that the engineer in Harrison has been very proactive in investigating new methods to improve snow and ice removal. I think District 10 (Northeast AR) needs some of this new equipment.

Overall, I think they are actively looking to improve. They admit that they "got behind the storm" this time. They do not like seeing Google Traffic Maps that show traffic immediately improving at the state line. They are not sitting around waiting for this to blow over.

As residents of the state, I say we forgive them and hope they improve before the next winter storm. The time has come for a change and I get the feeling that it will come.

Have a good night,


AngieEakes said...

Thank you Ryan. AHTD too. I look forward to seeing the new plans in action. I hope we don't need to see them until next winter though!

Spanky said...

What I found interesting is that in Jackson County, you saw no plows until Tuesday afternoon and then it was only one. Today after the hwy was cleared by the sun and warmer temps, then you see 5 plows on the same hwy all within 3 miles of each other.

Karen Provance said...

Thanks Ryan. I really hope they implement a "new" plan , I also hope we wont need it until next year. :)

LaDawn Stone said...

I left Lepanto going to Memphis today. Now keep in mind that on Monday did not see one AHTD person, plow nothing. Today I bet I saw 12. The roads were already thawed and they were still out throwing sand and salt...smh

Anonymous said...

Go back and read through the Baxter Bulletin regarding December's storm. This is the exact same response given to criticism during that storm, verbatim. One of the belly plows is now being used in Baxter County. I feel that when pressured they give a response everyone wants to hear. Clearly if they were proactive this wouldn't have happened twice in one season.

Anonymous said...

Spanky, I know for a fact that the state workers were out working on Sunday. Just because you don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there. Five plows in three miles, not true! These plows and men are working 24/7 with what they have! I applaud the AHTD for all they have done!

Candy Phillips said...

Thanks, Ryan for asking the questions and getting some answers

Mike Todd said...

It does not surprise me that 5 of the 6 belly plows are in northwest Arkansas. They have received a disproportionate share of highway funding for many years. A number of years ago I asked the AHTD leadership why it took 5 years to build 2 miles of Hwy 67 when I-540 was built at a much faster speed. They had no answer. When the cost of building a mile of Hwy 67 was $1 million and a mile of I-540 was $10 million, they had no explanation. Actually they don't have to explain anything. The AHTD is an independent agency that is not accountable to anyone. Their funding is dedicated funding so the legislature can't redirect their funds to some other program. The legislature does have to approve their budget, but if they don't, the money just sits there. The AHTD can give their song and dance answers, promise changes, make everyone feel better and then go back to doing what they want to do. Let us remember, it was the people who let them into the front door in the last election when they gave them a sales tax. We gave them even more money to spend how they want, when they want and where they want.

Anonymous said...

I was told this week that maintenance and upkeep of the highways in Missouri is their first priority in the allocation of their funds, with building roads in that state being their second priority, while the priorities and funding in Arkansas are set just the opposite...road building at the top and maintenance/upkeep after that. I can't personally confirm that, but it was spoken by someone who should know.

Anonymous said...

They claimed they didn't have any equipment that could move sleet/ice but they actually did. One such plow in Little Rock and five in Harrison but none for Northeast Arkansas.
Each district should get some of these plows. They can also be used to grate gravel roads/construction so they wouldn't have to sit idle during the warmer months. They have been using such plows in snowier parts of the country for years. It's not new technology.

They have to realize that whatever successes they have in areas where they receive a disproportionate amount of resources is negated when one area is left without. What happened on I-55 and Northeast Arkansas makes the whole state and AHTD look bad. Makes Arkansas look stupid and inept and behind the times.

Hopefully things do change. I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I wouldn't be so quick to forgive them. The AHTD is a ridiculously insulated agency that gets away with doing this time and again because people give them an out or a pass when they fail miserably. I'm familiar with the good ole boys (or girls) network seen in local agencies but didn't realize it goes straight to the state level. Explains a lot.

conserned person said...

Last year I lived near Caruthersville, We had snow and ice and no problem. They presalted the roads and they were not bad. The problem was I worked near Armorel. The roads over the state line were so bad that people were sliding off. It was like driving from day light to complete darkness! I don't know why Arkansas has such a problem clearing the roads. We need some real answers. Someone's life depends on it!