Spending on area road salt surpasses budgets

(WJLA) - Imagine how things would be around here if the road salt ran out, or if there wasn’t enough money to pay the people who drive the plow trucks.

It would undoubtedly be a mess – a complete disaster.

With that in mind, consider these numbers: Maryland budgeted $46 million to battle winter, but the state has spent more than $70 million. VDOT’s Northern Virginia district planned to spend $63 million, but they have already blown through $83 million.

VDOT’s secret weapon in the winter war is a massive facility in Alexandria that can hold 40,000 tons of salt – they call it “The Megadome.” It started out full, but now salt fills less than half of it.

Only D.C. is under budget, having spent just $2.3 million of its $5.1 snow removal funds.

"When we started the winter season, we had capacity for 360,000 tons; as of this last storm, we've used about 300,000 tons," says Dave Buck with the Maryland State Highway Administration.

But according to Buck, that doesn’t mean operations are in jeopardy, as shipments of salt come in daily. As for the money, they plan to figure that out later.

“We look at how much over we are and then we've got to make some decisions," he explains.

VDOT will do the same, according to Branco Vlacich:

"We'll de-emphasize non-critical items, like bridge painting. We may do a little less mowing," he says.

In the meantime, the trucks will continue to roll and salt will be placed on roads.

"We'll take care of it," assures Vlacich. "Safety is our number one priority and we're gonna make sure the roads are clear and safe."

As bad as this winter has been, it is still nowhere near as expensive as 2010, when the states and the District all spent more than twice their budgets.