As a public safety team on the roads day and night, good weather and bad, the Arizona Department of Transportation always has a focus on first keeping motorists safe and traffic moving. But after the recent winter storm pounded most of the state, ADOT will spend more than $4 million to repair critical infrastructure damaged by rain, wind and snow.
It’s a big price to pay, but a necessity to protect drivers, property and decades of investments in highway infrastructure. When bad weather strikes, ADOT crews are the first responders – clearing the way and securing passage for police, fire and medical responders.
“ADOT has no role more critical than public safety. We have hundreds of staff in every corner of the state, covering 6,000 miles of highway, providing services specifically to protect motorists, the movements of the things we buy, and the investment we have all made in our highways,” said Transportation Director John Halikowski. “When it snows, ADOT plows lead the way. That’s a powerful testament to our mission and the dedication of our public-safety professionals.”
Of the estimated $4.1 million total cost for repairs, some may be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration as part of a program to compensate states for emergency response.
The bulk of the costs, however, will hit the ADOT operations budget, a fund already drained by reduced revenues and legislative transfers. This is the same fund that provides money for snow plowing, Motor Vehicle Division Offices, staff salaries and highway rest areas.
Even when faced with flash flood, thunderstorm, tornado, dust storm, winter storm and other warnings from the National Weather Service, ADOT personnel and equipment were in action confronting January’s storms.
The series of storms – the second for this winter – took their toll on the highway system around the state. Eroded roadways caused by flooding, rock falls and landslides, feet upon feet of snow, sink holes, crashes that caused damage and other affects are still being addressed by ADOT crews. The forces of Mother Nature, when extreme enough, will foil even the best engineering and construction techniques.
“This serves to remind us that these types of extreme, unpredictable weather events are exactly what make the business of highway maintenance difficult and poses public safety challenges that only ADOT can tackle. The same set of rules applied to work done in a climate controlled office simply can’t be applied to work done in bad weather, or in the midst of traffic,” said Lonnie Hendrix, assistant state engineer for maintenance. “Highways are like living creatures. They respond to their environments, need care and attention, and sometimes surprise you.”