VTrans sees record year for road salt usage

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) This winter-- like many in our region-- has been unpredictable. So how does that effect budgeting for winter maintenance on the state and local level? The town of Middlebury is doing its best to stay on track, but the state is having trouble keeping up with the many challenges winter brings.

"We'll just see, we'll see what happens. I don't know, it could be massive or it could just sputter out and be nothing," said Alice Quesnel of Shoreham.

Another March snowfall in parts of our region. Some don't mind it, some are looking forward to winter's end.

"I hope it doesn't last too long and the sun comes out and it melts away really quickly because I'm looking for spring," said Luann Chiola of New Haven.

Significant snow or not, roads crews on the state and local level will be out.

"Typically, it's going to be all hands on deck," said Bill Kernan, the public works director for the town of Middlebury.

Kernan says this winter season hasn't differed much from years past on the public works side.

"Each one is different. They all have their own challenges," Kernan said. "These guys got tired early on so it makes for a longer season, in general, par for the course."

Kernan says the town hasn't spent any more money of their budget for the year than normally. But for the state, it's a different story.

VTrans officials told WCAX News they budgeted $18.5 million for this winter maintenance season. So far, they've gone about $13 million over and spent $31.7 million. That's about $5 million short of the $36.9 million spent last year. The highest amount spent for winter maintenance on record but the season is not over yet.

"It doesn't surprise me," Kernan said. "Like I said, each winter has its own challenges. We've been challenged this year with equipment. We've had a lot of breakdowns, had an engine go, that's very challenging because we don't have backup equipment."

When it comes to materials, Middlebury is in good shape when it comes to their salt supply.

The state, on the other hand, has used over 133,000 tons of salt this year alone. The highest amount on record. The previous record was the winter of 2015-2016 when the state used just over 132,000 tons.

They say freezing rain early in the season is the main cause of the higher sand and salt usage.

Some residents believe crews should do what they can to keep the roads as safe as possible.

"I think they are all dealt with as best as can be expected," Quesnel said. "Some storms are very difficult for everyone to stay on top of and that's just the reality of living in Vermont."