Snowstorms have hit New England state budgets hard


(CJ Gunther/EPA)

Another major snowstorm is bombarding the East Coast, with some New England states on track to spend more than expected or allocated for winter maintenance.

Though the storm is projected to hit states throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, southern New England is projected to get the heaviest snowfall, the National Weather Service forecasts. “It will be a winter wonderland for these areas,” it projected.

But for some states in that region, the latest storm will add to already-high spending on weather operations — with winter far from over. Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire are all on track to spend beyond what had been planned. But in Connecticut and Rhode Island,  spending seems on track for the season.

Here’s a roundup of where the six New England states stand on spending on winter operations, according to each state’s Department of Transportation.

Maine

Spending so far: $11.6 million
Average: $7.9 million

Here’s a little historical context on how much the state spent on clean-up over the past several years:
2009: $6.5 million
2010: $6.7 million
2011: $5.9 million
2012: $8.9 million

Ice has been a big complicating factor, says Maine Department of Transportation press secretary Ted Talbot. And “there’s a still a lot of winter to come.”

Typically the state uses about 33,800 tons of salt and 3,200 tons of sand per year, Talbot says. By the end of December, it had already used about 50,000 tons of salt and 6,900 tons of sand.

Massachusetts

Spending so far: $38 million
Authorized: $43 million

The spending number does not include Massachusetts’s most recent snowstorm last weekend, says Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesman Michael Verseckes. The state has seen more than 10 storms and, as with many states regularly bombarded by snow, the budget is fluid.

Typically, about $43 million is authorized for dealing with the winter weather and the legislature makes up the difference after the winter season is over, Verseckes says. Last winter the tab reached about $92 million.

Vermont

Spending as of yesterday on winter maintenance: $14.8 million

Planned: $22 million to $23 million

Winter in Vermont typically goes from November through April, with snow often falling in the shoulder months of October and May, according to the Vermont Transportation Agency  Director of Operations Scott Rogers. The state has spent more than half the amount planned, even though it has yet to reach the end-of-January midpoint of the season. Last year, Vermont spent $26 million during what was a particularly tough winter.

New Hampshire

Spending so far: $24.5 million
Planned: $42 million

The state Department of Transportation has spent 58 percent of its winter maintenance budget, even though it’s only 48 percent of the way through the season, says spokesman Bill Boynton. The agency has also spent 70 percent of its overtime budget for winter maintenance and 65 percent of its salt budget.

Connecticut

Spending so far: $18.01 million
Budgeted: $29.6 million

Rhode Island

Spending on winter operations so far: $6 million
Operations budget: $10 million

The storm arriving tonight will be the state’s 10th of the season, says spokeswoman Rose Amoros, and spending this season is on track to match winters past.

“We are on par with snowfall totals and operational costs as compared with our five-year average,” Amoros said in an e-mail. “We have, however, had rather unique storm events this year, so it’s been an atypical season when you look at each event individually.  The use of innovative tools such as closed-loop spreader controls, GPS and salt brine solutions has helped keep costs down as well as better protect the environment.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post cited incorrect statistics given for salt usage in Maine.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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