Stormy Winter Draws Down Region’s Salt Stockpiles, Budgets
LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC/AP) — The high number of winter storm threats this season has drawn down the Washington region’s road salt stockpiles and budgets to less-than-ideal levels.
The statewide stockpile was at 80 percent of capacity with a storm approaching Tuesday night and another on the weekend horizon, Maryland State Highway Administration spokesman David Buck said. He said there’s no shortage, but the agency worked quickly to replenish the supply after a storm Sunday night and Monday.
“We have more than enough to get us through this storm and even the next storm, but the back-to-back nature of these storms certainly has us keeping our eyes on supplies,” Buck said.
He said the agency generally likes to start a storm activation with its 94 salt domes averaging at least 80 percent full.
Buck said with the number of storm threats this season, the agency has activated crews in the Baltimore-Washington area 25 times since late November, compared with 10 to 15 by this time the past two years, he said.
Buck said salt storage units are as low as 60 percent in southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, areas that have received more snow than usual this winter. The agency can move salt within regions of the state to ensure an adequate response, he said.
Buck said the agency has tried to use salt more efficiently since 2010, when three big snowstorms, including two back-to-back, contributed to low salt stockpiles at some locations.
In Virginia, even in advance of Tuesday night’s storm, the state’s Department of Transportation says its northern Virginia district has exceeded its winter weather budget by more than $19 million.
The department already has spent $83 million and road crews have been mobilized 15 times this winter in northern Virginia, says Branco Vlacich, VDOT’s district maintenance engineer for northern Virginia. The northern Virginia region spent just $48 million last year.
“It’s a concern but not a major concern, because safety is always the No. 1 priority,” Vlacich says.
It’s easier to plan for a few big storms, Vlacich says, than several smaller storms with unpredictable and varying intensity.
“These little ones kind of nickel and dime you,” he said.
As a result of the money-draining winter, Vlacich said some spring and summer projects may have to be deferred.
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