State highway snow removal costs over budget
A series of winter storms has pushed snow removal costs at mountain passes in Washington state well beyond budgeted levels, state transportation...
YAKIMA — A series of winter storms has pushed snow removal costs at mountain passes in Washington state well beyond budgeted levels, state transportation officials say.
Just on the 40-mile stretch of Interstate 90 that includes Snoqualmie Pass, the most heavily traveled pass in the state, road-clearing and avalanche control costs are several hundred thousand dollars over the allotted $3 million, barely three weeks into the winter, sad Don Lee Whitehouse, a Transportation Department Regional administrator.
With final cost figures for snow and ice removal in the passes during December still being tallied, "we're close to $1 million overspent statewide," Whitehouse said. "It's been a hard winter."
He said he would have to take money from other programs, such as pavement patching, or ask the Legislature for additional funds to cover the gap.
The culprit is a La Nina weather pattern that has brought bursts of unusually heavy snowfall over the Cascades. The 172 inches recorded last month at Snoqualmie Pass was the fourth highest in nearly six decades, and 114 inches of the total fell in the last two weeks of December.
In addition, I-90 alone was closed 15 times in December for periods ranging from 35 minutes to an hour or more to reduce the risk of accidents and roadside avalanches.
Despite concern over the cost overruns, State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island and chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said there was little choice about snow removal through Snoqualmie Pass, which is used by an average of 32,000 vehicles daily — nearly a quarter of them freight trucks.
"We have other passes, but there is nothing like Interstate 90," Haugen said. "It is a major freight corridor. It's not the millions it costs us, but the billions it costs commerce that is brought to a halt if it is closed."
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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