UNDATED (WSAU) It cost more than ever to remove snow from state highways in Wisconsin last winter -- and not just because it snowed twice as much as normal. The state D-O-T paid more counties to equip its plows with sensors and satellite tracking. They provide a host of speed-and-salting data, to help county highway departments use their limited salt and plowing time more efficiently. About 45 counties now have the equipment -- and that's partially why the D-O-T spent a record $91-million on snow removal costs last winter.
But even without the equipment, the total plowing costs still would have been high. Wisconsin had an average snowfall of around 100-inches last winter, twice the average of 52-inches. The state pays counties to plow state roads, and it's why the D-O-T is paying for the satellite-and-sensor equipment for their plows.
The D-O-T's Michael Sproul cannot say yet that the new technology means safer roads. He says the goal at this point is to give people acceptable levels of service at less cost. Most counties which have the equipment are in southern Wisconsin. Dan Fedderly of the County Highway Association says the system is harder to use in the north. That's because cell phones are needed to transmit data, and he says cell signals in much of the north are not available or reliable. Fedderly also says it will take another winter to see if the new tracking technology can help counties throughout the state.