Delaware banks salt for the next big storm

 (photo courtesy of DelDOT)

(photo courtesy of DelDOT)

The Delaware Department of Transportation used 21,000 tons of salt so far this winter to combat the snow and ice that’s been blanketing the state.

Despite heavy accumulations, DelDOT spokesman, Jim Westhoff said the department is in good shape when it comes to the state’s salt supply and snow removal services.

“We’re using a lot of salt but we’re replenishing the yards,” explained Westhoff. “Our full stock pile is 65,000 tons and so far this year we have used 21,000 tons of salt but its being replenished so we’re not down 21,000 but we’ve used that much.”

So far for FY2014, DelDOT has spent $5.5 million in storm clean up funds, up from $4.7 million spent in FY2013.

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“The funds that we use for snow removal come from our operating budget, which has more than $100 million, said Westhoff. “We pay for mowing the grass, fixing potholes, installing signs, things like that. That has more than $100 million so, we won’t run out of money.”

Westoff said the department keeps track of how much is spent during the winter weather clean up and will make cuts to other projects later in the year if they have to.

“We need to be aware that our job is critically important,” he said. We’re conscious of the bottom line but we need to also keep in mind public safety,” he said.

DelDOT is responsible for keeping all numbered routes across the state clear of snow and ice while local cities are responsible for clearing municipal roads.

Local challenges

In Delaware’s largest municipalities both the Wilmington and Dover Public Works Departments are also combating slick road condition with salt and salt-sand mixtures.

Dover Public Works Director Sharon Duca said the state’s capitol city could use three times more salt then they had budgeted for if the weather trend continues through February.

“We typically budget for 80 to 100 tons but this time we’ve already gone through 120-150 tons and we ordered more which just came in to get us through the next wave,” explained Duca.

Duca said they’ve been fortunate in that they haven’t received the heavy snow like the northern part of the state but cold temperatures have caused a few pipes to freeze and bust. Potholes have also been popping up on the roadways.

“Once the snow clears, the street division will come out and keep an eye on that type of thing,” she said. “And we of course, appreciate reports from the public.”

According to Marlyn Dietz, director of operations for the City of Wilmington, they’ve used between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of salt in the city this winter and are trying to keep their supply replenished.

“The big issue now is getting a hold of materials,” said Dietz. “When you have to throw down 2,000 tons, materials become scarce. We’re pretty lucky that we’ve been able to get our hands on materials, but the lines are long to get trucks in and out.”

When storms hit, Dietz said they city’s main concern is clearing the nine primary routes in and out of the city as well as making sure hospital and emergency areas are open to first responders.

One challenge this city has been facing this winter is private residents and businesses clearing snow from their personal property and putting it back into the streets.

“You can’t put snow in the street, no matter who you are,” said Dietz. “If you’re a private contractor or private property owner you need to bank your snow on your property. It says it very clearly in the code.”

Dietz said that when snow and slush are pushed back on the road, it creates slick ice spots and large snow piles also cause road congestion and backs up traffic.

“Someone piled up snow on Adams Street right when you’re coming off I-95 and it created a major choke point because it was down to one lane and it was a mess out there,” he said.

Despite the variety of challenges, Dietz said road crews are passionate about keeping Delaware drivers safe.

“The men and women that work down here do an unbelievable job,” he said. “It’s not just in Wilmington, it’s DelDOT and all of the townships are out here working around the clock, in extreme weather conditions, when everyone else wants to be at home, and I can’t give them kudos enough to the men and women who do this for every storm.”

Crews will be out around the clock again tonight as freezing rain and ice move across the region.

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