Snow removal on I-80, once thought to suffer, not to be affected by state cuts | SierraSun.com

Snow removal on I-80, once thought to suffer, not to be affected by state cuts

Greyson Howard and Ryan Slabaugh
Sierra Sun
Sun File Photo
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TRUCKEE and#8212; Negotiations this week should keep snow removal on Interstate 80 on par with previous years.

Last week, a state decision to protect full-time workers limited funding for temporary and seasonal employees crucial in winter Caltrans operations. The decision would have left road managers just $1.9 million out of a needed $4 million, meaning only full snow removal services during the holidays, followed by reductions for the rest of the winter.

But a decision announced Tuesday to allow the movement of surplus funds in other departments into the budget for temporary and seasonal employees should cure that, said Stan Richins, Sutter Sierra maintenance manager for Caltrans.

and#8220;As far as we are concerned, I-80 is the top priority to keep the same level of service as last year,and#8221; said Mark Dinger, a spokesperson for Caltrans.

Richins said based on his budget for last year, and what heand#8217;s needed in previous years, he thinks he can take funds from the overtime and full-time pots of money to shore up the seasonal worker budget.

Caltrans wonand#8217;t be bringing on seasonal workers on as soon as usual, however, Dinger said.

Where they normally bring about 140 seasonal workers on in October to help with preparations, that work is being done by full-time employees, and seasonal employees wonand#8217;t start until snow flies.

and#8220;Weand#8217;ll be prepared for anything that is thrown at us this winter,and#8221; Richins said. and#8220;There are not going to be any major changes for drivers on 80.and#8221;

Placer and Nevada counties and the city of Truckee have not cut back snow removal services, so area roads should be consistent with previous years, according to local transportation managers.

A 74 percent spike in sand prices from contractor Atlas Trucking also has Caltrans adjusting plans for winter operations on I-80.

Since sand normally pulled from a Truckee pit wasnand#8217;t meeting necessary specifications, Richins said, the contractor had to drive farther for the material, used in the winter to add grip to icy roads.

If Caltrans used the same amount of sand as usual, Richins estimated it would add $300,000 to the winterand#8217;s budget.

But a new technique involving the use of a salt water solution called brine, tested for a few months last winter, means the road department should only need to spend $100,000 on sand.

and#8220;It was a huge success last year,and#8221; Richins said regarding the brine tests. and#8220;It is very cost effective and it allows the salt to work a lot more effectively than just rock salt.and#8221;

Normal salt relies on traffic to crush it, grind it into the ice, and spread it around, where as brine starts working right away, said Bryan Carlson, Donner Pass area maintenance superintendent, in an interview last winter.

It can melt snow and ice down to 10 degrees, compared to rock salt that quits at around 25 degrees, he said.