, Gloucester, MA

March 26, 2013

State already in deep hole on snow budget

By Michael Norton
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — With top state officials mulling tax options to address long-term transportation financing needs, they face a more immediate problem in the state’s depleted winter road-clearing budget.

According to information compiled for the State House News Service by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, MassDOT this year budgeted $45.5 million for snow and ice removal. However, actual spending on road-clearing was already at $84 million as of March 11 — and that did not include the most recent storm that struck last week.

“That amount is expected to rise as wintry weather continues and we receive deliveries of materials and call on our plow truck vendors ... again!” DOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie wrote in an emailed response to inquiries about the state snow and ice budget and spending trends.

The most recent storm dumped an added 6 to 10 inches of snow on Cape Ann last Tuesday, and more in other parts of the state. While amounts from different storms have varied across the state, with higher totals in Western Mass., Cape Ann has been hit with roughly four feet of snow since Feb. 1 — with 20-24 inches of that coming in the Feb. 8-9 Blizzard of 2013.

MassDOT is authorized to spend $30 million in addition to its $45.5 million budget without seeking supplemental funding from the Legislature. And since spending has already exceeded that level, department officials say Beacon Hill is aware that a request for additional funding is likely this spring.

“Spring may be here, but we all know that does not necessarily mean the end to plowing and treating roadways. There is significant snow fall in the forecast for tonight into tomorrow,” Lavoie said.

According to MassDOT, state spending on snow and ice removal in recent years breaks down as follows: fiscal 2007, $41.7 million; fiscal 2008, $104 million; fiscal 2009, $127.5 million; fiscal 2010, $69.7 million; fiscal 2011, $106 million; and fiscal 2012, $35 million.