GLENWOOD SPRINGS " The same snow totals that has Colorado's ski area executives smiling this season has Colorado Division of Transportation officials frowning. CDOT projects a record year, as well, in terms of snow and ice removal budgets and the number of lane-miles plowed statewide.
The 2007-08 total budget for snow plowing costs was set at $43 million based on the 2005-06 winter seasons. However, by mid-March CDOT had already spent a reported $53 million for snow removal costs statewide.
According to CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks, a number of factors contributed to the jump in cost. Most notable is the sheer amount of snowfall this year as compared to past years. More snow creates more problems and work for snow plow drivers.
"There's been more snow for sure," Shanks said. "But there's been more incidents, more miles plowed on Interstate 70, more avalanche control work. You name it, they did it this year."
Higher gasoline prices, along with increasing cost of materials such as liquid deicers and equipment like snow plows, also contributed to the higher budget this year according to Shanks.
Just like the ski areas, the highways were covered in snow on a more consistent basis this year, making the plow trucks a frequent sight on the roadways across the state.
"It's that constant maintenance that had the trucks out more," Shanks said.
According to CDOT, through April 2, I-70 between C-470 and Vail has been closed to traffic 70 times due to semi-truck incidents, accidents or weather. However, that is actually less than last year's total of 97 closures.
But that didn't affect the amount of time spent on the highway plowing snow. CDOT crews plowed more than 6 million miles of road through mid-March, and are projecting to end the season with approximately 7.4 million miles statewide by the time the snow stops falling. That's an increase of about 300,000 lane miles plowed for the year statewide.
CDOT bases yearly plow budgets two years in advance sometimes creating a gap in budget and actual cost, as seen this year. To accommodate, the Transportation Commission sets aside a contingency fund to cover costs that exceed the year's snow and ice removal budget.
2007-08: $43 million " projected: $71 million
2006-07: $51 million
2005-06: $41.1 million
Total lane miles plowed (lane miles are calculated in total miles driven by plow trucks)
2007-08: 6 million lane miles through mid-March " projected: 7.4 million
2006-07: 7.1 million
2005-06: 5.2 million