Friday, May 2, 2008

The cost of the numbers

Keeping state highways clear of snow and ice during the winter is an expensive job - a $35 million job, to be exact. And that’s if we have a “normal” amount of precipitation.

This winter, during a three week spell (last week in January and first two weeks of February), we had 13 feet of snow fall in the mountains. 13 feet. It wasn't the most snow we have ever had on record, but that amount of snow in a three week period created a mess that required one of the most significant avalanche control seasons ever.

That heavy snowfall combined with cold temperatures we had this winter pushed us more than $8 million over budget for snow and ice removal – and we haven’t even factored in the cost of clearing up the spring snow. Here’s a look at the cost breakdown through March:

Avalanche Control

  • 97 missions
  • 221 detonations
  • 99 recoilless rifle rounds (hadn't been used since 2002)
  • 8,560 pounds of explosives


  • Cost: $150 per ton
  • Planned use: 55,000 tons
  • Currently used: 85,000 tons
  • Difference: 30,000 tons at an extra cost of $4.5 million


  • $2.2 million extra in regular time
  • $1.6 million extra in overtime

Total over budget: $8.3 million

The 2008 Legislature provided an extra $5.25 million to help balance the costs of winter cleanup efforts, but we anticipate carrying at least a $3 million deficit into next winter. If the 2008-09 winter is milder, we may recoup some of our costs.