States Spent Over $1 Billion On Snow Removal Last Winter

Peter Fricke Contributor
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A particularly harsh winter left many states over-budget on snow removal, with some having to kick in tens of millions in additional funding, according to a survey released Monday.

The survey of 23 states, conducted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, found that combined spending on winter maintenance operations exceeded $1 billion for the period between October, 2014 and March, 2015, the Associated Press reports.

The states cumulatively devoted about 8 million work hours to plowing and treatment, and dumped roughly 6 million tons of salt and other deicing agents onto road surfaces, in an effort to keep up with snowfall that hit record levels in the Northeast and even caused problems in Southern states like Mississippi and Georgia. (RELATED: Meteorologist: Northeast Has Snowiest Winter Since 1717)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, for instance, spent $154 million this winter, forcing state legislators to appropriate additional money to supplement the agency’s $107 million budget. All told, Massachusetts used 600,000 tons of salt and 1.6 million gallons of liquid deicer, and removed 17.5 billion cubic feet of snow.

Pennsylvania, which sent crews and equipment to assist Massachusetts, had to come up with an additional $69 million. The state’s snow removal budget, which was based on average costs over the past five years, had been set at $203 million, but actual spending came in at about $272 million.

The crisis was even more severe in Southern states like Mississippi, which doesn’t normally budget any money for snow removal, because extreme winter weather is so rare. (RELATED: Are DC ‘Weather Wimps’ to Blame for Snow Paralysis? Here’s a Closer Look)

Last winter, though, Mississippi had to spend $3.1 million on snow removal, not including the additional expense of filling in potholes that have developed due to the strain of freezing and melting on roadways.

States are not normally allowed to use federal highway funds for snow removal, but in January, President Obama approved disaster declarations for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, allowing those states to collect a 75 percent reimbursement for costs incurred during severe snow storms that month.

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