PHOENIX, Ariz. - The snow came with a fury last year. It buried communities across Arizona, closed roads and caused millions of dollars in damage. It was a record-setting year for snowfall in our state - a year that required preparedness, manpower and resources to keep roads safe and clear for drivers.
The Arizona Department of Transportation is once again prepared for the snow and the ice, whether Mother Nature again unleashes her wrath or quietly ushers in a mild winter.
ADOT's first priority is public safety, and snowplowing is always the main focus during critical winter safety operations. These operations are a year-round focus and ADOT prepares by servicing equipment, training personnel and stocking up on materials. Snow and ice are cleared, and damages to roads and equipment are repaired after the season is over. It's a continuous cycle, but one that is crucial as we ensure the safety and mobility of the traveling public.
Resources translate into readiness. ADOT has 395 employees who are trained snowplow operators. During winter storms, these operators typically work 12-hour shifts to keep roads clear and open. ADOT also has 196 snowplow trucks in its statewide fleet that are serviced, staffed and ready to go once the first snowfall comes. ADOT is fully stocked with deicer chemicals, which include a granular product called Ice Slicer and liquid magnesium chloride.
Finally, ADOT has many employees statewide who are ready to manage operations during the height of any winter storm.
While preparedness is the key to our winter maintenance operations, only time will tell how much snow, rain, ice, and flooding Arizona will get this year. ADOT's yearly budget for snowplowing and winter storm maintenance is between $3 million and $7 million, depending on the severity of the winter season. This figure includes labor costs, equipment costs, fuel, and deicer chemicals.
Last year's set of intense storms put ADOT's winter maintenance costs well over $9 million. That doesn't include approximately $16 million in damage to our roads and bridges -infrastructure that all needed to be repaired.
The winter maintenance budget is completely paid by state funds - funds that have been severely impacted by budget shortfalls during the past few years and reallocations to help balance the state budget. Tight budgets also impact ADOT's ability to repair and replace aging and broken snowplowing equipment. It's a delicate balance, and one that may cause impacts to other services within ADOT.
While ADOT is prepared to keep the roads clear and open as in years past, motorists are encouraged to be prepared as well when driving in snowy and icy conditions. That includes becoming more familiar with safe driving tips and carrying a winter preparedness kit in your vehicle.
This information can be found on ADOT's "Know Snow" website at www.azdot.gov/KnowSnow. The website also contains downloadable snow maps of snowplowing schedules and routes.
Before heading out on the roads, drivers are encouraged to call 5-1-1 or log on to ADOT's Traveler Information Center at www.az511.gov for the latest highway conditions around the state.
The website features images along state highways that give drivers a glimpse of weather conditions in various regions.