DOTD secretary gives agency a ‘B’ for winter weather response

Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson says his agency performed phenomenally with key assists from the National Guard and the State Police during a rare wicked winter polar vortex that brought two rounds of ice and snow.

Thick sheets of ice and snow last week did cause wrecks that triggered temporary closures of Interstates 20, 49 and 10, but Wilson says his agency “implemented the plan that was called for efficiently and effectively.”

As The News Star reports, Wilson also says he doesn’t believe it would be wise to invest millions of state tax dollars in equipment that might be needed only once a generation. 

“Was it perfect? No,” says Wilson, who’s been with the DOTD since 2005. “But things were weirder, wetter and wilder than anything we’ve ever seen.”

Overall, Wilson gave his agency a “B” grade, saying he wanted more “real time” updates on the agency’s 511 phone line and website that details road closures and hazards. 

The largest traffic jam during the weeklong event that began Feb. 15 was Thursday on I-20 near Shreveport, where some motorists were stranded in their vehicles for eight hours or more after an 18-wheel semitruck jackknifed and piled up traffic for miles. The Louisiana National Guard was called in to clear the interstate with wreckers, 

The DOTD distributed as much as 4 million pounds of salt and 180,000 gallons of brine to treat the roads during the cold. Read the full story.