Caltrans gets $10.6 million bump in Tahoe-Truckee snow removal budget | SierraSun.com

Caltrans gets $10.6 million bump in Tahoe-Truckee snow removal budget

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — With forecasts predicting up to several inches of snow at Truckee-Tahoe’s lower elevations by Friday, Caltrans is prepared to keep state roadways and Interstate 80 clear for motorists.

In District 3, which includes roadways in Northern Sierra counties, staffing is at 586 people — 415 full-time and 171 temporary employees.

“We are fully staffed and ready for 24/7 operations with the oncoming storm,” said Steve Nelson, Caltrans District 3 public information officer.

As for snow removal and ice control, I-80 has 132 pieces of equipment, including plows, plow/sander trucks and motor graders.

On average, roughly $4.7 million of commerce traverses I-80 at Donner Summit every hour, according to Caltrans.

Closer to Lake Tahoe, Highway 28 has 25 pieces of equipment, while U.S. Highway 50 has 87.

“We have to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings and react accordingly, so we have not decreased staff or downsized equipment based on the past three seasons,” Nelson said.

Last winter, 297.5 inches of snow fell at 8,000 feet, and 97.5 inches at 6,200 feet, according to Squaw Valley’s snowfall tracker. In 2012-13, 326 inches (8,000 feet) and 183 inches (6,200 feet) fell. In 2011-12, 355 inches and 182.5 inches fell, respectively.

The average snowfall for the Truckee/Tahoe region is roughly 430 inches.

“We’re hoping and praying for a real winter this year,” Kris Kuhl, acting deputy district director of maintenance and traffic operations for District 3, said at a transportation meeting last week.

According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm warning is in effect for the greater Truckee/Tahoe region from Thursday afternoon to Friday afternoon.

As much as 8 to 14 inches of snow is expected at lake level, along with 1-2 feet above 7,000 feet, with the potential for three or more along the Sierra crest.

Helping District 3 handle whatever Mother Nature brings is a $10.6 million (15 percent) increase in its maintenance budget this year, Nelson said.

It’s the first time in five years the District 3 maintenance program has received a budget increase.

“Hopefully, somebody there in Sacramento felt that we were going to get a good winter, so we would need it, or at least that’s what we hope that they were thinking,” Stan Richins, regional maintenance manager for District 3, said at the meeting.

When driving in winter conditions, Caltrans advises motorists to reduce speed; carry tire chains; have a travel kit with blankets, food, water and a flashlight; and check road conditions before traveling.

For travel information through Caltrans, visit http://www.dot.ca.gov or quickmap.dot.ca.gov.

“We’re ready. We just need the snow to fall,” Kuhl said. “We’re ready to keep the roadways open, so that people and goods can get to where they need to go.”

Caltrans is responsible for the maintenance of I-80. U.S. 50 and state roads, including highways 267, 89 and 28 at Truckee/Tahoe.