Cost of salting roads against snow spikes in Kansas

The rising cost of road salt is adding to the budget woes for state and local governments in Kansas.

If this winter matches the last two for heavy snow and ice storms, driving conditions could become dangerous for travelers.

Road maintenance officials for the state, Sedgwick County and Wichita said they have paid the higher prices and are amply stocked with salt for now.

But they aren't weather forecasters, either.

"I feel good about it unless we get three or four major storms in December," said David Spears, the county's director of public works. "Then I'll start getting a little nervous."

"If we have a hard winter, and salt availability continues to be an issue, we may have to conserve materials in a way that would be noticeable to the traveling public," said Kim Stich, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.

In the Midwest and Northeast, maintenance crews used a near-record 20.3 million tons of road salt last year because of heavy snowfall. That created shortages in stockpiles that normally would have been available this winter, causing demand -- and prices -- to bump up dramatically.

"Last year brought a tremendous awareness to what happens if you don't have enough surplus stockpiled close to the point of need," said Max Liby, mine manager for the Hutchinson Salt Co. "That caused cities and counties and states to continue purchasing salt throughout the summer and fall."

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