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Easy on the Salt
States stretch shrinking supply
, Courier Staff Writer
Monday, February 10, 2014 10:00 AM
The Kentucky Department of Highways District 5, which serves Trimble County, is feeling the effects of the large number of winter weather events as the salt supply, including the pile seen here at the Trimble County garage, has continued to shrink. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
The harsh winter weather has put road crews in Kentucky and Indiana in a pinch with more than a month until the official beginning of spring.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials said more than 300,000 tons of salt have been used so far this winter - tens of thousands of tons more than in normal winters. The cabinet usually uses 200,000 to 250,000 tons of salt a year.
Kentucky officials are looking for ways to conserve the salt as deliveries to district facilities slow and reserve stockpiles begin to shrink.
The state had less than 150,000 tons of salt on hand as of Friday, a release said, and new deliveries of salt to the storage areas are hard to get.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) estimates its trucks have logged nearly 4.3 million miles and deployed 265,000 tons of granular salt this winter. In addition, INDOT has put nearly 2.5 million gallons of salt brine on Hoosier highways.
When conditions permit, crews in both states plan to rely more on plowing and less on treatments with salt and other materials.
In Kentucky, the state transportation cabinet's top priority and obligations are state highway systems, a release said.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 5 - which includes Trimble County and seven other counties - had 13,000 tons of salt on hand during the most recent winter storm with another 20,000 tons of salt to be delivered last week, spokeswoman Andrea Clifford said.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 - which includes Carroll County and 10 other counties - had about 12,000 tons of salt from deliveries over the last couple of days, spokeswoman Nancy Wood said.
Carroll County Judge-Executive Harold "Shorty" Tomlinson said the salt reserves at the county's road department are fine for now. The county uses a mixture salt and cinders to clear roads of winter slush and ice, and deliveries of salt continue to come in right now.
Trimble County road crews don't use salt to clear county roadways, officials said. The road department uses a mixture of cinders from local providers and calcium.
Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said the state wants to keep roads clear, but he also wants to make sure the state doesn't run completely out of salt.
"We like to be aggressive about clearing our roadways," Hancock said in the release. "But we also must be careful in our planning and judicious in our use of salt and other materials to ensure we don't run out."
The salt reserves across Indiana and Kentucky dwindled quickly this winter because of the unusual amount of snow and ice.
The 12 districts of the Kentucky Department of Highways had already requested nearly 18,000 tons of that reserve for their supplies.
Kentucky also released figures at the end of January showing the state had already spent more than $27 million on snow and ice removal for labor, equipment, materials and contractors.
Even with the increased salt usage and spending this year, Kentucky hasn't surpassed the record set during the winter of 2010-2011. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet used more than 450,000 tons of salt and spent nearly $74 million on the wintry weather that year.
Over the past five years, the average cost of INDOT's winter operations including overtime, fuel and salt has been $33.8 million. INDOT estimates it has invested more than $31 million in winter operations as of Jan. 18.
PHOTOS: States stretch shrinking supply
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