Nov. 27 2018 12:38 AM

Early winter storms are partially to blame.

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Salt supplies, critical for melting snow and ice on roads, are running short in parts of the Northeast, according to a story posted on the website of WCAX, Burlington, Vermont. Those supplies have been depleted partly because of early-season winter storms that have hit the region. This could affect landscape contractors who do snow removal in those states.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation says it spent between $10 and $20 more per ton on road salt for this winter than last year. VTrans officials say they aren't worried about the price increase, however.

"Keeping Vermont roads safe at safe speeds is a priority and we will spend the money that we need to spend in order to accommodate that," Vermont Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn said. He said there is no question the agency will always invest in winter road safety, no matter the cost.

"If we need to get funds from other areas of our transportation budget, should that become necessary, then we will do that, and we can move money around within our budget to some limited degree," Flynn says.

Last year's winter weather put a strain on the salt supplies coming from mines. VTrans used about 173,000 tons of salt last year, exceeding the normal yearly average of around 130,000 tons.

Officials say the shortage hasn't yet affected Vermont, and that salt sheds are at full capacity.

But Flynn says even though Vermont has enough salt right now, if the winter runs long, more could be needed. The same will probably be true for the other northeastern states as well, putting even greater pressure on salt mines.

Mixing sand with the salt is not an option, for some reason. VTrans officials say if they do run out of salt, they will look to other suppliers besides their usual contractors.