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DOT needs $4M more to keep up with snowfall

State House Bureau

March 21. 2018 10:01PM
A row of plows clear a sweeping turn at the Interstate 293-93 merge in Manchester on Feb. 7. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — The state Department of Transportation needs an infusion of about $4 million to keep the state’s snow plowing and road maintenance budget solvent through the rest of this snowfall season, DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan told the Executive Council on Wednesday.

The Legislative Fiscal Committee has already approved the transfer of $3.95 million from the Highway Fund Surplus to pay for winter maintenance. The Executive Council’s approval was the final step.

“From the snowfall perspective, this has been the 11th snowiest season statewide,” Sheehan said. “This has been a pretty severe season.”

The change will bring the DOT’s winter maintenance fund from $29 million to $33 million, with most of the increase, $2.5 million, going to the cost of additional road salt. Another $1.2 million is for unbudgeted leasing of additional equipment for snow removal and maintenance.

This is the second time the DOT has had to seek additional funding for snow removal this year. The department requested an additional $6.2 million in February.

According to the DOT, as of March 16, the department had spent 98 percent of its winter maintenance budget.

The request for an additional $4 million is based on the anticipation of two more winter storms before the end of the plowing and salting season.

“Should these storms not materialize, then funds not expended will lapse back into the Highway Fund during the close of the fiscal year,” Sheehan said.

The state has historically used 175,000 tons of salt by this time over the past three winters, compared to the nearly 225,000 tons used in the same time period for this winter.

Snowfall inches so far this year total about 85 inches on average statewide, compared to 65 inches over the past three years in the same number of weeks.

“I think DOT has done a tremendous job this year,” said Gov. Chris Sununu after the council vote. “Most people would agree the roads have been in tremendous shape. But it has been one of the snowiest years in recent history.”

Sununu said it is routine for the DOT to seek additional funding when weather conditions merit.

“Commissioner Sheehan has done a great job managing the finances of the department,” he said. “When she comes in to say they need a few extra dollars to get through to the end of the season I think people understand it’s not done frivolously, but with the utmost frugality in how they spend their money.”

The latest storm

Residents of southeastern New Hampshire could wake to 1 to 3 inches of snow, while those to the north and west are expected to get only trace amounts, forecasters say.

The storm was expected to move in late Wednesday, with snowfall growing steadier after midnight.

Snow should wind down by mid-morning.

More snow is forecast for Massachusetts — 3 to 6 inches.

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