ST. LOUIS — Tight budgets will mean less snow plowing on Missouri roads this winter, with transportation officials pledging to keep the roads "passable" but not necessarily clear.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the state Department of Transportation plans to use its equipment and technology better but make fewer passes on roadways with its plows, particularly on less-traveled highways. Transportation Department Director Kevin Keith said the roads will still be safe but the changes make more financial sense. He said he hopes motorists will not notice any differences.
The first test for the new plowing policy could be Saturday when rain is expected to become snow.
"We used to salt and scrape until the roadways were perfectly clear," said Owen Hasson, the maintenance supervisor for the St. Louis-area. "Now, we will be make sure the roadways are mostly clear, safe and passable, but we won't be making those extra runs to get every little band of snow all burned off."
About three-quarters of Missouri's highway budget comes from fuel taxes, which have been flat after declining during the recession. Officials say fuel tax receipts on average have grown by 2 percent.
"We're trying to do the best we can with the money we have," Keith said.
Hasson said this winter, his district will dispatch about 220 plows during snowstorms instead of 250 trucks. They also will reduce plows working in tandem to remove snow on interstates from as many as seven trucks to three. But many plows now will have a trailer plow in addition to their front-end blade. The rigs also are being equipped to spread salt more efficiently.