Caltrans escapes state budget woes to beef up Truckee/Tahoe winter staffing

Jason Shueh
Sierra Sun
Sun file photoA tractor trailer rig jack-knifed two winters ago on westbound Interstate 80 at the Soda Springs exit and#8212; another reminder of how slick and dangerous the main artery between Reno and the Bay Area can become.

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; A Caltrans official on Thursday decried last yearand#8217;s 818 inches of snowfall as record breaking and#8212; opposed to the 429-inch average and#8212; and said this winter staff will be prepared to confront Mother Nature despite Californiaand#8217;s ongoing budget woes.

Steve Kirkpatrick, the Caltrans District 3 deputy district director who manages snow removal on Interstate 80, estimates 250 seasonal employees will be hired for regional snow services, in addition to the 600 full-time employees charged with operations along the main artery between Reno and Bay Area.

Furthermore, despite heavy construction this summer along I-80, center dividers and equipment will be removed and the interstate will return to normal operations by mid November.

and#8220;The I-80 corridor is really the economic lifeline, not just for here in this area for the ski resorts, but across the country,and#8221; said Kirkpatrick at Thursdayand#8217;s Truckee North Tahoe Transportation Management Association meeting at the Granlibakken Conference Center and Lodge. and#8220;Our dedicated Sierra snow fighters are ready.and#8221;

Californiaand#8217;s budget situation has created financial setbacks for many government services, and it appeared early on that snow removal in the Sierra would feel impacts, he said, as a hiring freeze would have jeopardized hiring of the 250 temporary employees.

and#8220;We were really concerned about getting the extra help we need to service the area and especially Tahoe,and#8221; said Kirkpatrick and#8220;We were fortunate that the (state) department of finance lifted that freeze and we are busy doing the hiring right now.and#8221;

While staffing will go as scheduled, Kirkpatrick said Caltrans is worried budget cuts may impact the departmentand#8217;s equipment, as many of its snow removal vehicles have been running two to three years and carry more than 100,000 miles.

and#8220;There is concern that we may be reducing some of critical equipment which may reduce some of our snow-removal operations,and#8221; he said.

But thereand#8217;s more good news, Kirkpatrick said, in the form of communicating conditions to motorists.

Changes planned for this winter include updating Caltransand#8217; previous road side information number, 477-ROAD, to and#8220;511,and#8221; and introducing real-time updates through a new website

and#8220;What we want to do is strive to make it seamless,and#8221; Kirkpatrick said. and#8220;The bottom line is that we’ve got the resources and the Tahoe Basin is a priority.and#8221;

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