Is this the best we can do about ice?

Posted Monday, Dec. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The past four days in North Texas were an ice-covered calamity, an up-close look at the worst winter weather the region gets.

Tarrant County residents know they’re fortunate that they usually don’t have to endure several feet of snow like our friends and relatives in states to the north.

What snow we get often turns quickly to slush, and even before it does we can usually get around in it.

But ice storms like what moved into our area last Thursday are something else. When the temperature stays below freezing, the thick glaze stays hazardous for driving or walking.

Every time this happens — and, fortunately, storms as bad as this one don’t happen every year — it’s helpful to review the region’s response to see if we could do better next time.

It doesn’t take more than a couple of nights of TV news footage showing 18-wheelers and other traffic stuck on the same part of the interstate to know we must do better.

The Texas Department of Transportation has reported it had 35 pieces of heavy equipment working on Metroplex highways Sunday, along with 300 sand trucks and pickups with 600 drivers.

The city of Fort Worth deployed 130 pieces of equipment with 200 operators.

On Monday, crews were out again, working to clear ice from bridges along Interstate 20, I-30, I-35W and Loop 820, said Transportation Department spokesman Val Lopez.

In a way, the storm’s timing was lucky for North Texas.

Its economic impact on a weekend during the holiday shopping season was bad enough, but a midweek shutdown of almost all business operations could have been even worse.

Should transportation agencies pour more resources into acquiring more and better equipment for clearing ice from roads and highways?

Spending a bunch of taxpayer dollars preparing for rare events is a tough choice to make.

Our most recent storm like this was in 2011 during Super Bowl week in Arlington. That’s two bad ice storms in less than three years. Maybe they’re not so rare.

North Texas elected officials — all represented on the Regional Transportation Council — should review the response to the recent storm and determine whether it could have been done better.

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