Salt prices to hurt road budgets

1920px-Salt_truck_MilwaukeeWith winter right around the corner, cold-weather states are starting to stockpile on rock salt to fight icy conditions. Unfortunately, several states will have to squeeze budgets due to skyrocketing prices.

In Michigan, Ann Arbor area municipalities, school systems and road commissions are paying $76.58 per ton of rock salt. That’s more than double last year’s price of $34.50.

“It’s supply and demand economics,” Washtenaw County Road Commission director of field operations Jim Harmon said.

“What we have been informed is that the unusually harsh winter last year played a part in the cost increases. The vendors, there are a handful of them, have not been able to sufficiently rebuild their stockpiles and this drove the price up.”

After its initial deliveries the local area will be forced to pay $53.07 a ton for additional salt, which is a 46 percent increase over 2013.

“The reality is that if we use all of this we’re going to incur $500,000 to $600,000 more in expense than what we had originally expected or projected,” Harmon said. “But clearing the roads takes priority.”

The North American Salt Co. also called Compass Minerals, is the company that fills salt orders for the state of Michigan. Company spokeswoman Tara Hart says the entire industry has been forced to raise salt prices. She says last year’s record-breaking snow levels has depleted rock salt around the country.

Michigan isn’t the only state suffering from the high cost of rock salt. The Midwest region in general is looking at higher costs compared to previous years. States like Ohio are looking at anywhere from $80 to $100 a ton.

[gtblockquote type=”right” quote_text_size=”22″ quote_text_style=”normal” quote_text_color=”#9F0226″] Transportation safety should always be the No. 1 priority.[/gtblockquote]Regardless of the prices, clearing roads for transportation safety should always be the No. 1 priority.

“This inflation in salt prices just compounds the challenges before us. The larger problem is getting worse not better; the infrastructure is continuing to deteriorate, and the more money we have to put into winter maintenance the less we have to fix the roads and bridges,” Harmon said. However, he added that “clearing the roads takes priority.”