NJ officials pleased with response to last winter’s storms — but tweaking
New Jersey Department of Transportation officials say they're fairly pleased with how DOT crews performed this past winter — but there are plans to change a few things.
During a recent winter assessment meeting, the DOT compared notes with representatives from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the South Jersey Transportation Authority and the New Jersey State Police Office of Emergency Management.
Steve Schapiro, deputy director of communications for the state Department of Transportation, said moving forward everyone will coordinate forecasting models.
“Each of the agencies actually uses a different forecasting agency, and so working more closely together to synthesize those different forecasts should give us the ability to have a better sense of what the weather might do," he said.
He said the agencies will work more closely together when a forecast might just be for one small section of the state, to make sure the resources necessary are in place.
According to Schapiro, during this past winter season “the New Jersey Department of Transportation activated 44 times, that compares to the prior season where we activated 33 times. And we spent a total of $92.6 million, and that compares to the prior season, which was $103.1 million."
So why did the DOT spend less money for more storms, even though they activated more?
Schapiro said DOT crews may be activated for a number of different scenarios — including for snow or rain that could freeze, or remnants of a storm that might re-freeze after melting. And storms can be statewide or smaller regional events. The length of a storm can be an issue as well.
A review of budget documents and comments by Assembly Budget Committee members earlier this year suggested New Jersey spent more this past winter than the year before. New Jersey 101.5 is reaching out to the DOT again to clarify the discrepancy.
When asked about the perceived uptick in brining the roads this past winter — with trucks often seen treating roads even when no storm eventually materialized — Schapiro suggested there was not any uptick at all.
“We use it when it’s necessary, and it all depends on the forecast and the type of storms that we have," he said. It’s an effective pre-treatment that allows us to stay ahead of the storm and keep those roads clear and safe.”
He said every year the DOT starts with about $10 million allocated for winter weather response, but more funds are always available.
“Throughout the winter, the treasury will reimburse the Department for whatever is necessary, so there’s never a question of if we’re going to run out of money," Schapiro said.
More from New Jersey 101.5:
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.