ADOT sells cars to plow roads

KINGMAN - The first major snow of the season has come and gone, and while Kingman saw little more than flurries and rain, areas to the north and east were hit with anywhere from three inches to more than a foot of the white stuff. And while that may not mean much to the average stay-at-home Kingmanite, it means plenty to those who plan to commute through those areas, several of which were already being plowed Monday afternoon.

Fortunately, despite suffering more than $500 million in program cuts and declining revenues, the Arizona Department of Transportation has said its snowplowing schedule will continue as normal this year, thanks to a planned, one-time liquidation of several hundred vehicles from the agency's fleet. But according to ADOT Director John Halikowski, any further state budget cuts this fiscal year could cripple the agency's ability to plow roads effectively, never mind the uncertainty the next fiscal year brings.

"We found a solution for this year, but the long term should be a concern for every driver in Arizona," Halikowski said. "How will we fund snowplowing next year? There are no concrete answers for that challenge, which may only increase if transportation revenues continue to decline or if additional transportation dollars are diverted to the state budget."

In addition, while ADOT will be able to continue its snowplows this year, it will do so without hiring any new trained snowplow operators or purchasing any new plows to replace its aging fleet, due to a state hiring freeze and additional budget shortfalls.

And according to ADOT spokeswoman Michele Beggs, any federal highway funds that might be available to the state cannot legally be used to pay for snowplowing.

"Unlike highway projects, we don't have the option of using federal dollars to pay for snow removal," she said. "Laws prohibit its use for that purpose, and those restrictions mean that ADOT must manage the state's largest-ever construction program while, at the same time, addressing $100 million in cuts to the state's operations budget."

The agency's "Know Snow" Web site, http://www.azdot.gov/knowsnow, does not show any restrictions expected for plowing operations in the Kingman district, though Beggs warned that could change if ADOT's financial situation deteriorates further. If it does, then ADOT will defer to its snowplow priority route list, which gives I-40, U.S. 93 and SR 68 first priority over SR 66, SR 89, SR 96 Bagdad to SR-97, SR 97, the Seligman business loop, the Ashfork business loop and SR 96 from SR 97 to Hillside.