• December 27, 2014

Winter didn’t severely impact local highway budgets

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Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 4:30 am

Although some U.S., state and local governments spent up to three times their usual budgets for clearing roads during winter storms this year, according to an Associated Press report, Central Texas road-repair budgets weren’t affected very much, including most of Killeen and its surrounding areas.

“We’ve pretty much been flat on the total dollars we’ve spent,” said Coryell County John Firth, explaining that the county budgeted accurately.

Coryell increased its road maintenance budget around 1 percent a year, he said, and this year’s increased cost was balanced out by previously mild winters.

Most of the county’s money was spent on preventative measures like ensuring ditches are cleared and roads drain properly because there are not many potentially icy bridges and overpasses maintained by the county, he said.

Belton and Copperas Cove used city money to maintain most of its roads, except for bridges and overpasses on local roads, major roadways and highways, such as Interstate 35 and U.S. Highway 190 and Texas Highways 9 and 317.

Those areas, and others, were maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, and tend to be the spots where ice forms quickly during winter storms.

The city-funded roads needed a little extra care this past winter, Belton spokesman Paul Romer and Copperas Cove spokesman Kevin Keller said.

“We just put a little sand on them. It had very little impact on our budget,” Romer said.

Temple had no major road repair costs as a result of winter weather, city spokeswoman Shannon Gowan said, and all costs were within budget.

Harker Heights City Manager David Mitchell, however, said his city will probably have to dip into its emergency fund to cover overtime hours maintenance crews spent sanding roadways.

“In terms of manpower, in (2012-2013) we had an estimated 20 hours of overtime, and in (2013-2014) we had 96 hours of overtime,” Mitchell said.

While the Texas Department of Transportation did not overstretch its budget, TxDOT spokesman Ken Roberts said new structures are coming up in the Killeen area that will require more winter maintenance, mainly the coming gateway into Fort Hood and the new U.S. 190 loop around Copperas Cove.

“We will watch, and as you add structures it certainly requires additional focus, but we’ll program that in,” he said.

Roberts said usually the Killeen area averages about two winter incidents per season.

This year, however, there were five.

The state spent only about 15 percent more on the roadways as a result of winter weather then it usually does, but the cost was offset during the previous few mild winters, in which the state spent less than it usually does.

Typically, costs rise the weeks between Christmas and February, when roadways ice over a bit, then thaw and ice over again before thawing for the season, Roberts said. The cycle of freezing and thawing cracks the roads and can be responsible for those never-popular potholes.

Winter weather expenses also come from placing extra chemicals on the roads to melt the ice and using machines to push ice and snow to the roadsides. Although roads are initially made safer, both de-icing techniques can further damage roadways, which might need minor repairs afterward.

TxDOT maintains a regular inspection schedule of the major roads under its purview to monitor road conditions.

It also helps inspect municipally maintained roads.

Bell County was not as severely hit weatherwise as the northern states, which were slammed with unusually heavy snow and sleet, Roberts said.

“We had an intense winter, but from a matter of perspective, it wasn’t that intense,” he said.

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