A worst-case scenario is developing for traffic during Super Bowl week. Wet, wintry weather and frigid temperatures are expected beginning late Monday or early Tuesday, and possibly hanging around through Friday. A moment of truth is arriving for Super Bowl planners who promised that they'd be ready for a catastrophic ice event, and would be able to keep the major roads open between Arlington, Fort Worth and Dallas.
"The situation is fluid right now, but that's OK, because we're flexible," said Texas Department of Transportation spokesman Val Lopez. The agency is calling in dozens of employees from other parts of the state to come help out with anti-icing and de-icing efforts on North Texas roads. These employees were already trained last month on where to use the anti-icing equipment. Up to 150 employees and 70 pieces of equipment from around the state could be called in to reinforce what's already available in North Texas, Lopez said.
The emphasis will be on roads that have been designated priority corridors for the Super Bowl and related events. Priority roads include: I-30 in Dallas and Tarrant counties, Texas 360, Texas 180 (Division Street) and Farm Road 157 (Collins Street) in Arlington; and Texas 121/183 (Airport Freeway) from downtown Fort Worth to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport.
More than 30 truckloads of anti-icing and deicing material -- and maybe many more -- will be strategically placed on these roads, probably beginning tonight or early tomorrow.
The timing will be tricky, Lopez said, because trying to pretreat highways to prevent icing is a waste of resources if conducted in a driving rain. The de-icing material is a liquid, and if you try to apply it in a rainstorm the material just washes into the gutter. The key is to wait until the rain turns to sleet, and then aggressively pre-treat the highways with anti-icing material before the sleet hardens into a mass. Some amount of icing is inevitable, though, and for those areas the agency uses a solid, sandy material.
What's the big deal about a little wintry weather, you may ask? Well, the Super Bowl is expected to bring in about a quarter million visitors this week, many of whom are getting their first look at the Metroplex. Leaders in the region want to be in the rotation for future Super Bowls, so they want to prove to the world that they can handle icy roads and such. In 2000, an ice storm in Atlanta ruined many Super Bowl festivities, and the big game hasn't been back there since.
The North Central Texas Council of Governments is holding a press briefing at 4 p.m. today in Arlington to discuss preparations for wintry weather. An update to this story likely will follow that event.
-- Gordon Dickson, [email protected]