published Monday, December 31st, 2012

Chattanooga, TDOT beefs up winter road measures


by Cliff Hightower
Ricky Colston, manager of street maintenance for the Chattanooga Department of Public Works, stands in front of 2,700 tons of salt the city has stockpiled for snow removal.
Ricky Colston, manager of street maintenance for the Chattanooga Department of Public Works, stands in front of 2,700 tons of salt the city has stockpiled for snow removal.
Photo by Tim Barber.

BY THE NUMBERS

225,000 Gallons of salt brine on hand for Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 2

15,000 Gallons of brine available for Chattanooga

61,000 Tons of salt ready to be used for TDOT Region 2

7,000 Tons of salt and sand for Chattanooga

Source: Chattanooga, Tennessee Department of Transportation

The Chattanooga region got just a dusting of snow and a sprinkle of ice from the weekend's precipitation, but if it had been more, local officials were ready.

A series of snowstorms that hit Southeast Tennessee two years ago led state Transportation Department officials here to stock up on salt, sand and brine to see the region through the winter.

"We're much more prepared," said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation Region 2. "Our budget increased."

The state added $5 million to its budget this year for snow removal statewide, going from $14.7 million to $19.7 million, records show.

And since the storms of two years ago, Chattanooga has spent almost $2 million to buy nine new plow-equipped trucks that can lay down salt and sand or clear snowy roads.

"We're going to be better off because we have functioning plows," said Tony Boyd, Chattanooga Public Works assistant director. "This is the first time I've seen those here, and I've been here 30 years."

TDOT and the city each almost ran out of salt and sand after a series of snowstorms in December 2009 and January 2010. Between 6 and 10 inches of snow fell during one event, making it the largest snowfall recorded in the region since the Blizzard of '93.

Boyd said the city has 7,000 tons of salt and sand on hand as well as the new plows.

Flynn said the state department also is better positioned, with three salt vendors rather than just one. Region 2 has more than 60,000 tons of salt on hand to handle its area, which goes from Chattanooga north to Pickett and Fentress counties and west to Franklin and Coffee counties.

Boyd said the city is prepared to use its new trucks, if needed, but he's keeping his fingers crossed.

"I hope we don't," he said.

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