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This Winter So Far [AUDIO]

The 2012-2013 winter, on the surface, doesn’t appear to be too harsh in terms of weather. However, the numbers present a different story.

Last winter, the state Department of Transportation spent $21 million on snow removal tactics such as plows, salt spreaders and the manpower needed to operate the equipment. Already this winter, the Department has spent more than $30 million.

Plow
The New Jersey Department of Transportation has already spent more than $30 million this winter on snow removal. (Flickr User likeaduck)

Including Friday’s storm, DOT has mobilized equipment and employees for 23 winter events this season.

“It’s really more than the amount of snow that determines costs,” explained DOT spokesman Joe Dee. “When we have a forecast, we have to get ready for it. We hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

For a statewide event, the Department mobilizes an estimated 2,000 pieces of equipment on the interstates, U.S. highways and state highways. So far this winter, DOT has spread 153,000 tons of salt.

Snow removal costs hit $56 million in 2010-2011. The Department spent $44 million the year prior.

Most New Jersey towns have dollars budgeted specifically for snow and other emergencies. Bill Dressel, Executive Director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, said this past weekend’s storm strained a few local budgets.

“There’s only so many dollars that have to go around, and you try to maximize those dollars,” Dressel said. “For every dollar we spend to deal with natural events…they could be taken from other particular programs at some point.”

Dressel said those crucial decisions do not have to be made in any towns yet, but if the weather starts providing a big storm every one or two weeks, those “white knuckle decisions” may come into play.

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