By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s the only thing between us and gridlock each winter – salt. And most days, since Thanksgiving, road crews have been out there spreading.

“We have no other option but to do that,” said Ron Brame, of Collier Township Public Works. “The residents come first.”

Brame’s Collier Township Public Works department is a good example of the budget-busting barrage of snow this winter.

“As of today, we are five percent over the budget for [the] 2013-14 winter seasons, and we haven’t gotten to February yet,” Brame said.

Brame says they’ll buy what they need and the township manager will determine later what other budget line item will have to be cut.

“Even before the weekend storm came in, we have almost doubled what we used last year at this time,” said Rob Kaczorowski, of Pittsburgh Public Works.

Pittsburgh has already spent more than three times what last year’s snow removal cost in materials. Not over budget yet, but likely unless there’s a dramatic change in the weather trend.

“That money has to come from somewhere, and a lot of time, our biggest line item in our capital budget is street resurfacing; so normally, that’s where you go to,” said Kaczorowski.

PennDOT is not immune from this dilemma.

“We’ve used about three times the amount of salt than we did last year to this point,” said Dan Cessna, of PennDOT.

PennDOT locks in a price up to a certain amount of salt.

“If we go over that, basically you pay market rate and market rate can get very expensive,” said Cessna.

But the new transportation bill will help lighten the burden of this unexpected winter, and Cessna says they are not in the project cutting mode yet.

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