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Agencies set guidelines to avoid long term highway closures

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Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner John Schroer joined Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security (TDOSHS) Commissioner Bill Gibbons Thursday to sign a new agreement between the two agencies regarding the quick clearance of highway incidents.

The goal of the agreement is to ensure public safety and restore Tennessee roadways to full capacity as soon as possible following highway incidents.

TDOT and TDOSHS began working on the new agreement following an incident in December 2011 that closed Interstate 40 in Wilson County for nearly 12 hours, leaving hundreds of motorists stranded overnight.

Following the potato truck crash in December, we made a promise to the public that we would initiate changes to avoid this type of situation in the future, Schroer said. We now have specific guidelines that can dramatically reduce the time it takes to clear major incidents from our interstates and major highways.

The new agreement states the goals and objectives of TDOT and TDOSHS when a serious crash occurs and clearly defines the responsibilities of those responding to the incident.

We have an obligation to the people of this state and the motorists traveling our roadways to improve our operations and communication, Gibbons added. This agreement will allow us to make earlier determinations about the magnitude of an incident and take appropriate action to not only reopen the roadway, but also improve safety for motorists and responders.

The agreement includes a number of new procedures:

Classifies incidents as major, intermediate, or minor Requires reassessment of clearance activities every 30 minutes Tow truck or wrecker service will provide equipment of the appropriate size, capacity & design to clear the roadway in a reasonable amount of time Towing companies will not create further delays to off-load cargo or recover a damaged vehicle. TDOSHS will immediately notify TDOT of any closure lasting longer than 30 minutes TDOT and TDOSHS will determine and deploy necessary equipment and manpower if task is beyond the capabilities of the wrecker service on scene Sets 90 minute goal to clear roadway

The TDOT/TDOSHS agreement will be guided and monitored by the Commissioners of Transportation and Safety and Homeland Security, Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel and TDOT Chief Engineer.

The entire agreement may be viewed at http://www.tn.gov/tdot/incident/docs/MOU-TDOT-TDOSHS-Feb-14-2012.pdf.

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