At Issue: Winter Roads Budgets - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Winter Roads Budgets

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If you live in the Northeast, chances are, you're looking at the snow outside and thinking that it has been a long winter. Our region's transportation crews couldn't agree more.

From a nasty ice storm and plunging temperatures in December to a late-March snowstorm, this season has been a winter weather rollercoaster. And it has left road crews across our region tired and their budgets strapped.

Quebec's transportation ministry says according to Environment Canada, this was the harshest winter they've seen in the last 25 years. They're expecting they'll probably go over their $261 million dollar budget.

"This year it started really, really early -- we're talking mid-November. If we compare it to last year, for the winter 2012, it started December 27," says Sarah Bensadoun with the Quebec Transportation Ministry. "So we're talking a month and a half in advance, which is very, very early."

Here in Vermont, VTrans says in an average winter, they usually spend about $20-22 million on winter maintenance. This year so far, they've spent more than $26 million dollars. And operations director Scott Rogers says it's showing.

"We're all getting tired. It's been a long winter, we're ready for spring," he says. "And the equipment is getting tired. As we continue to have storms, we continue to have more little breakdowns. The trucks have had a rough couple of months and they're ready for a break too."

New York is also feeling the pinch. This year, they say cold temperatures forced them to use more than a million tons of road salt so far. Normally they use closer to 800,000 tons. But this year, they're 30 percent over.

And transportation officials in Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire also told us this winter has left the roads in rough shape. New York already has used twice as much pothole patching material as last year, especially in higher-traffic areas like the Lower Hudson Valley and Long Island. The state's pothole hotline -- 1-800-POTHOLE -- has been very active this season.

And in the Granite State, at about 80 percent of the way through winter, they had used almost 98 percent of their budget. And they'd used 190,000 tons of salt, about 45,000 tons more than usual. One of their plow drivers told us they're on around the clock when storms hit, and when drivers fly by, it's dangerous.

"Take your time, give yourself a little extra space," says plow driver Matt Jordan. "Give us room, we're here to help you and make sure that you make it home all right or to your destination."

And coming up this week on the Channel 3 News at 6, we investigate other winter roads issues like salt brine, road clearing resources, and whether Vermont should consider mandating winter snow tires. That starts Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

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