When winter storms hit Ashe County and the High Country, state and local municipalities prepare to clear roads helping people commute safely.
With $40 million budgeted to be used for all 100 counties,the North Carolina Department of Transportation starts preparing before the storm even starts.
“Before a storm hits, we will have our group do dry runs so they are familiar with the roads,” said Jordan-Ashley Baker, Communications officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT). “Sometimes we will have contractors in the event of a larger snowstorm, and we always have those extra contractors on hand to help.”
If that $40 million runs out, the state will continue to keep the roads safe, but it will be up to the towns and counties to find the money.
“If we exceed ($40 million), we’re not going to stop treating roads or treat fewer roads,” Baker said. “We’ll treat the roads as we would any other winter storm. Then counties will go back and reevaluate some of their other maintenance budget decisions.”
Those decisions, for example, could include which potholes a town would need fixed, as opposed to potholes they want fixed.
The state treats roads with salt brine, a mixture of salt and water which prevents ice from bonding to the road. According to the NCDOT website, it costs the state $6 to treat a “one-lane mile” of road with brine, compared to $14.38 to treat the same area with rock salt.
Baker said each county has to provide the salt to make the brine solution for the roads.
West Jefferson Town Manager Brantley Price said the town had budgeted $10,000 for salt and has so far used $6,000 of that money. Last year, the town had spent $8,000 for salt.
“We have put $10,000 in the budget just in case the last two years,” Price said.
NCDOT covers Jefferson Avenue and U.S. 221 Business, while the town covers the rest of the roads.
In Jefferson, the NCDOT covers all of the town’s four-lane roads, while the town covers the side streets, according to Jefferson Town Manager Cathy Howell.
Howell said she did not know the exact amount the town budgeted for winter weather, but said she believes “It’s cost more than it has in recent years.
Baker said they try to put down brine on the roads before the storms hit.
“We can’t put down brine on a road that is already wet,” she said. “The water that is already on the road will either wash the solution or make it less effective.”
For the most recent snowstorm on Friday, March 7, Baker said the NCDOT did not brine the roads here, but did in Wilkes County and other surrounding areas.
“I don’t believe we brined in Ashe County,” she said. “That is because some of the roads still had residue on them from the previous storms.
Baker said the first roads that get treated are the interstates and four-lane divided U.S. Highways. After covering those roads, the state then covers other U.S. and N.C. Highways, followed by major secondary roads.
To see which secondary roads in the county the NCDOT covers, go to http://apps.dot.state.nc.us/srlookup.
Ashe County is covered by N.C. DOT’s 11th Division, which also covers Alleghany, Avery, Caldwell, Surry, Watauga, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.