Snow, ice costs for Kentucky climb to $68M this year

A winter season punctuated by a polar vortex, sub-zero temperatures, and nasty snow and crippling ice storms created more than a traveling nuisance for Kentucky residents. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) spent more than $68 million on snow and ice removal – about 1½ times the cost of a typical Kentucky winter.

During the 31 snow and ice events this season, KYTC’s nearly 2,000 maintenance crew employees worked to keep more than 60,000 lane miles of roads open. KYTC’s vehicle and equipment fleet includes 1,065 snowplows. In addition, the cabinet can call on 382 contracted snowplow trucks to assist with snow and ice removal.

To keep roads clear, KYTC spread more than 438,000 tons of salt – compared to 194,000 tons state crews put down on roads last year during a mild winter season. On average, crews spread between 200,000 and 250,000 tons of salt in a year and spend between $40 million and $45 million. Last year’s snow and ice removal costs were about $42.4 million.

“This was an extraordinary year — requiring extraordinary measures — in terms of the amount of salt used on state roadways and the challenges KYTC faced as the winter pressed on,” said Nancy Albright, Deputy State Highway Engineer for Project Delivery and Preservation.

The past winter saw high demands for salt across the country and supplies low at times, which required KYTC to exhaust its reserve salt pile at the Mega Cavern in Louisville, introduce conservation efforts to preserve salt supplies for an emergency, and encourage the 12 Department of Highways districts to share salt supplies as stockpiles dwindled.

While severe, the winter of 2013-2014 fell short of being a record setter. The winter of 2010-2011 cost $74 million and 450,000 tons of salt.

The amount of money used to combat snow and ice will result in fewer funds to do some spring maintenance work on state roadways.

Maintenance issues that could create hazards on roads if not repaired – such as guardrail replacement, striping and pothole repair – will be top priority. But maintenance issues such as tree trimming, pavement patching, panel sign repairs and some drainage structure issues may be deferred until funds become available.

“If it’s not critical, it may have to wait,” Albright said.

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