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Investigation of blowing snow on 390

Rochester, N.Y. -- Six years ago, whiteout conditions were blamed for a 36-car accident that caused the death of one person along the stretch of Interstate 390 just east of the airport, near the Scottsville Road exit ramp.

13WHAM asked if this spot is still a problem for drivers during snow storms.

The Department of Transportation statistics show more than 130,000 drivers use that stretch of 390 on a daily basis, where a 20-foot-high retaining wall stands between the road and the airport runway.

This unique position for this stretch of highway can cause whiteout conditions when snow builds up along the airport runway. Without any barriers to prevent it, wind can build momentum along the runway. Sometimes snow that is not captured by a snow fence ends up being dumped onto lanes of traffic on 390 below.

13WHAM News learned that on Jan. 7, emergency call centers received 55 calls for accidents along 390 in the area of Scottsville Road. Sheriffs deputies responded to a dozen crashes. State police and fire crews responded to others.

In that area of 390 between Brooks Avenue up to the bridge going over the Genesee River into Genesee Valley Park, thats always been an area that weve had issues with whiteout conditions, said Gates Fire Chief James Harrington on Jan. 7.

Chief Harrington was the man in charge of the mass casualty accident in February 2008 that took the life of one 17-year-old victim.

Whiteout conditions were blamed for the accident.

In December 2013, a jury determined Monroe County was liable for that accident. That case is being appealed and there is also a pending lawsuit filed by crash victims against the New York State Department of Transportation.

The case pit expert architects against each other. One hired by the crash victims stated in an affidavit, "a vertical plane adjacent to a highway must be addressed concerning snow and ice or trouble will follow.

He also suggested that "a minimum of four fences be erected in the area" to prevent trouble with whiteout conditions.

Some of the snow being blowing over the wall is trapped and deposited fairly close to the wally, mostly out of the travel lanes, the countys expert witness stated.

An orange snow fence has been at the end of the runway for years.

The snow fence does provide some helpfulness of course its not be-all, end-all. It doesnt stop every snowflake from going across the expressway, but its not that much different from other open areas, Lori Maher from the state Department of Transportation said on Jan. 7. If youre going to work youre going through the same areas, maybe you want to avoid that section of highway.

According to Maher, the Department of Transportation did not have any other plans to address the situation at this point.

A spokesman for Monroe County told 13WHAM News the state DOT maintains and installs the snow fence on an annual basis. Construction of additional fences or facilities on the airport grounds could be impacted by FAA regulations.

Both Monroe County and the NYS DOT were limited in what additional comments could be made given the ongoing legal cases.

 
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