California is Keeping Motorist Safe with Operation Snowflake

I-5 winter travel | I-5 Exit Guide

The California Department of Transportation’s Division of Maintenance is proactively working with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to implement “Operation Snowflake” to protect motorists when heavy snow limits or blocks use of the Interstate 5 Grapevine in northern Los Angeles County.

Caltrans amped-up its game this winter by adding a new tool — a median gate that can swing open on I-5 at Castaic in Los Angeles County to turn around northbound motorists to southbound lanes. The gate was used during the 2019 Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays because I-5 was closed for extended times due to snow at the Tejon Pass summit (4,144 feet), a major transportation corridor known as the Grapevine. The innovative traffic management technique proved to be a big success because it reduced highway congestion and alleviated traffic in local communities.

When forecasters predict heavy snow will drop to 4,500 feet or lower, Caltrans coordinates with the CHP to activate “Operation Snowflake”, an alert system that calls for maintenance crews to work around-the-clock to keep the highway open. CHP officials determine if it’s necessary to shut down the highway as a safety precaution. If a closure is ordered, Caltrans blocks off the northbound I-5 lanes at Lake Hughes Road at Castaic and the southbound I-5 lanes at Grapevine Road in Kern County — a vital freeway span that links Southern California to the Central Valley, with average daily traffic of 83,000 vehicles.

Caltrans teams work tirelessly with CHP to keep the I-5 Grapevine open during winter storms, with a top priority in mind — public safety.

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