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A pedestrian checks for traffic before crossing the street in front of a front-end loader plowing snow off the sidewalk in Minneapolis, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Miller A pedestrian checks for traffic before crossing the street in front of a front-end loader plowing snow off the sidewalk in Minneapolis, January 7, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Miller  

Email: Colorado is too ‘broke’ to afford snow clearing supplies

The Colorado Department of Transportation blamed inexperienced drivers with bald tires on a massive mountain traffic jam during a snowstorm last week, but one CDOT plow driver said the blame should be on the department itself — it’s too broke to afford snow-clearing supplies like road sand and magnesium chloride.

“We’re down to about one storm’s worth of product and that’s the mag chloride,” the anonymous plow driver told Denver’s 7News.  “We’re down to zero sand.”

He said the lack of supplies was responsible for last week’s poor road conditions when hundreds of motorists coming down from the mountains were stranded in snarled traffic on I-70.

Earlier, CDOT said the traffic jam was caused by drivers with bald tires who caused several crashes.

The department pulled 22 cars out of ditches and snow banks along I-70 on Sunday, Feb. 9. Of them, 19 had bald tires, according to a press release that admonished drivers to check their cars before driving in the snow. Some were miffed at the insinuation that traffic jams were their fault.

“Everybody has to blame somebody,” frequent I-70 traveler Kayla Haman told 9News.

But the plow driver’s claims about lack of supplies to clear the roads are bolstered by an email 7News obtained from regional manager Mark Gocha.

“As most have heard by now, we are broke and will not be getting anymore winter product like Slicer, Sand or Apex,” Gocha wrote to mountain plow drivers. “We cannot even order supplies, not even toilet paper. … I have closed out all purchase orders, stopped the ordering of supplies as well as stopping all credit card purchases.”

Colorado has seen several epic mountain storms in recent weeks, which lead to an increase in traffic to ski resorts. I-70 has long been heavily congested on Sundays as everyone returns to the Denver area at once. The spate of storms has depleted about $40 million of CDOT’s $60 million road clearing budget, according to spokeswoman Amy Ford.

But she disputed the email, saying the department isn’t “broke” and that supplies to the mountains haven’t been cut off.

“We were a little low here in the last week or so after the storms that we had last weekend and we’re actually shifting supplies here over this week up into the mountains to make sure they’re stocked,” she told the station, blaming miscommunication for Gocha’s email.

“We wanted to stop the kind of orders that maybe weren’t essential services,” she said. “I think the message unfortunately got to a point where people were under the impression that they needed to stop everything while things got sorted out and that’s not the case.”

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