TDOT ready if winter onslaught ensues - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TDOT ready if winter onslaught ensues

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CHATTANOOGA -

(WRCB) -- The scenery of last season's winter wonderland in the Tennessee Valley was a dream come true for some, but it was a nightmare for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, nearly stopping it in its tracks and eating up its budget and salt supply.

TDOT'S Region 2 spans 24 counties, including Hamilton. Jennifer Flynn is the region's community relations officer and was relieved to hear about a budget increase for the 2011-2012 winter.

"We've gone over budget the past two years," said Flynn. "So it didn't surprise me that they increased it because they saw what had been happening with us."

Last season the region's 55,000 tons of salt were nearly depleted after two major snowfalls, periods of icing, and sharing a portion with Region 1.

"Knoxville was almost totally out of salt. So we all had to pitch together and share what we could with them," explained Flynn.

One barge full of purchased salt from TDOT's lone supplier never even made it to Region 2. This problem will be avoided by having two additional vendors on standby.

It isn't known right now how much of the one million dollar budget increase will go to the region. Flynn said it will be available as needed and can also be used for other supplies such as brine as well as equipment maintenance and overtime pay. She is thankful for the state's "better to be safe than sorry" approach to the problem.

"We don't want to get caught flat-footed," explained Flynn. "We want to make sure we're fully stocked and ready to go and we have other options available to us should our main option fall through."

With the additional funds and suppliers, Flynn was confident Region 2 won't be sidelined by another winter assault and said when it comes to clearing roads she'll keep fiscal responsibility in mind as well as public safety.

"We're still in conservation mode. It's not like we're going to be free-wheeling with the salt this year or anything. We'll still do the best we can and maximize the tax payer's dollar," said Flynn.

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