By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — While winter drags on, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) officials have begun looking for ways to conserve salt as deliveries slow and materials run in short supply.
To date, more than 300,000 tons of salt has been used and $27 million has been spent on labor, equipment, materials and contractors for snow and ice removal.
“We like to be aggressive about clearing our roadways,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said. “But we also must be careful in our planning and judicious in our use of salt and other materials to ensure we don’t run out.”
On average, the cabinet uses 200,000 to 250,000 tons of salt a year. This winter, KYTC crews have spread more than 300,000 tons. With most of the country experiencing an unusually harsh winter, shipments of salt have slowed and new supplies are hard to find. However, KYTC reports they have 150,000 tons of salt on hand, enough to get through the remaining weeks of winter.
“We stockpile enough salt to get through what we anticipate to be a normal winter,” Deputy State Highway Engineer Nancy Albright said. “If we need additional salt, we’ll either purchase it from our contracted salt vendors or from other vendors when we can’t buy it from our current contract.”
The salt shortage also means the state is unable to fill all requests it receives from county and municipal governments for additional salt. KYTC’s top priority and obligation is to the state highway system. Routes are assigned priorities, based on traffic volume.
While crews work to keep roads clear and safe, drivers are asked to adopt safe driving habits:
• Exercise greater caution when driving. Slow down.
• Give a wide berth to snow plows and other heavy highway equipment.
• Eliminate distractions while behind the wheel.
• Beware of ice as temperatures fall and roadways refreeze. A mechanical breakdown is especially dangerous in bitter cold.
• Keep a blanket, flash light and emergency supply kit in your vehicle.
• Stay in the vehicle if you become stranded. Help will come.
Road conditions throughout the state can be found on the Transportation Cabinet website at www.511.ky.gov, by calling 511 in Kentucky or 1-866-737-3767 for out-of-state callers. Links to weather updates, weather safety tips, including winter driving tips, can be found on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov.