WYDOT’s snow control costs during the current fiscal year have exceeded the $22.6 million budgeted, largely due to heavier-than-usual snow during February.
At the end of January snow control spending stood at 69 percent of the budgeted amount, but spending during February was double the usual amount.
As of Feb. 28, WYDOT had spent $21.9 million for snow control. Although the March figures are not in yet, the costs of dealing with snowstorms so far this month are expected to have exceeded the $674,000 that remained in the budget.
With the rest of March, all of April and the May and June reopening of three alpine passes still to come, WYDOT expects the budget overrun to be significant.
In addition, because WYDOT operates on the federal fiscal year of Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, the current budget also must cover any snow control needed next September.
WYDOT Budget Officer Kevin Hibbard said, if March and April continue to bring the usual spring snowstorms, the projected snow control overrun could be as much as $6 million.
“Historically March and April are our heaviest snow months, but even if there is no more snow this spring, just reopening the mountain passes will put us significantly over the budgeted amount,” Chief Engineer Del McOmie said.
The department closes WYO 130 over Snowy Range Pass, WYO 70 over Battle Pass, and U.S. 14A west of Burgess Junction annually when heavy snowfall and low traffic volumes make it impractical to keep them open.
Reopening those passes in May and June cost an average of $305,000 annually during the past five years, with a high of $602,000 in 2011. With most areas of the state reporting heavier-than-normal snow this winter, the cost is likely to be higher than average this year.
Any cost overrun in the snow control budget will be made up through WYDOT’s state construction budget.
“Our contingency plan is that we don’t award contracts for our state-funded construction program until after the snow control budget is cleaned up,” Hibbard said.