DelDOT giving snow fences another whirl

Delaware Correctional Center inmates install a snow fence along Del. 1 south of the Dover Air Force Base Tuesday morning. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Delaware Correctional Center inmates install snow fences along Del. 1 south of the Dover Air Force Base Tuesday morning. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Snow fences haven’t been seen in Delaware for 15 years, but the Delaware Department of Transportation hopes to change that by testing them out this upcoming winter as part of a pilot program throughout Kent County.

“We’re only testing it out this year in Kent County,” said Jim Westhoff, DelDOT community relations officer. ”There are a lot of areas that are notoriously known for drifting and we wanted to do something about it.”

A snowdrift is a deposit of snow sculpted by wind into a mound during a snowstorm, and the aim is for the snow fence to force drifting snow to accumulate in a desired place. They are primarily employed to minimize the amount of snowdrift on roadways and railways.

Some of the locations for the pilot fences include Del.1 southbound, Del. 42 near Cheswold, U.S. 13 southbound and Wyoming Mill Road.

DelDOT stopped deploying snow fences about 15 years ago because of the various costs associated with erecting, removing and maintenance of the fences.

But Tom Greve, central district engineer for Kent County, said the department decided to try it out again, due to constantly being questioned by residents as to why they don’t use the fences anymore.

“People used to ask us that same question all of the time,” Mr. Greve said. “We historically have some bad roads where the snow drifts, so we decided to try it out again this year.

“Some of the areas the state doesn’t own, so we had to ask the property owners for us to use their property. We had a little back and forth between some property owners, but in the end they were fine with it.”

Inmates of the The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center near Smyrna are erecting the fences, and a few already are in place.

“We plan to set up about 15,000 feet of fences throughout Kent County,” Mr Greve said. “The process has started already, as we have about 4,000 feet to go.”

Mr. Greve said DelDOT are using a wood fence in some areas and a plastic one in other areas to figure out which one is the best option moving forward.

“The wood fence is about $1.85 a foot and the plastic fence is $1.20 a foot,” Mr. Greve said. “We hope to compare the two once the winter is over and then from there we can see what works best for us.”

Mr. Greve hopes the winter lives up to its name and provides enough snow to test the fences.

“We joke about that all the time,” Mr. Greve said. “But if doesn’t snow like we anticipate then once winter is over we will take down the fences and try again next year.”

But Mr. Westhoff said the state is fully prepared for the snow season in the meantime.

“All of our vehicles are getting inspected,” Westhoff said.”Our salt stockpiles are full. We’re ready.”

Mr. Greve hopes the potential success of the fences will help DelDOT expand them statewide.

“That’s the goal,” Mr. Grave said. “We’re going to see how this goes this year and if everything goes according to plan then we hope to talk to the other counties and add them to areas that need it next winter.”

The newly installed snow fence along Del. 1 is part of a pilot program being tested on some Kent County roads where drifting historically has been a problem. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The newly installed snow fence along Del. 1 is part of a pilot program being tested on some Kent County roads where drifting historically has been a problem. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

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