DOT's snow removal expenses add up

Posted December 28, 2010 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 29, 2010 6:25 a.m. EST

— All primary and most secondary roads across the state were clear Tuesday, though some slick patches might remain from a winter storm that dropped up to a foot of snow across the region on Christmas weekend, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said.

“This is the best I’ve seen with the amount of snow that we’ve had, so they did an excellent job,” driver Sharon Gee said Tuesday.

Before the weekend storm, the DOT had spent $14 million on snow removal this fiscal year. The state budgets from July 1 to June 30.

Between paying overtime, hiring private contractors, fueling up vehicles and placing salt and sand on the roads, a statewide storm like the one that hit on Christmas can cost the DOT millions each day, officials said.

“It is very expensive, but it’s a service we need to provide,” DOT engineer Wally Bowman said.

The DOT spent more than $4.5 million clearing roads last February after a winter storm.

DOT engineers believe that once the clean-up of the most recent storm is complete, the state agency will be close to its total budget for this year with the busiest and typically most expensive months for snow removal – January and February – still to come.

“It’s not like we’re going to stop clearing the snow every time it snows between now and the end of the fiscal year,” Bowman said.

Bowman said more money for snow means less money for roads later in the year, including expenses like maintenance, resurfacing, clearing ditches and grading secondary roads.

Many drivers said they want the state to spend whatever it takes to clear the roads because it’s good for safety and the economy.

December’s snow removal expenses will be the highest in seven years, according to information released by the DOT on Tuesday. As of Friday, the state had already spent $11 million in December on snow removal, just below the $12.1 million spent last year at this time.

Overall, the state spent $65 million last fiscal year on snow removal.