CDOT plow driver blames I-70 nightmare on supply shortage

Spokeswoman acknowledges budget is 2/3 gone

DENVER - A Colorado Department of Transportation snow plow driver who wants to remain anonymous told 7NEWS he's fed up with the winter supply shortage in the mountain region.

"We have no sand.  We have a very minimal amount of mag chloride to put down," he told 7NEWS reporter Molly Hendrickson.

The employee said he's tired of plowing the mountain corridor and showed a picture of his nearly empty supply shed.

"We're down to about one storms worth of product and that's the mag chloride.  We're down to zero sand," he said.

The employee said it's what caused the travel nightmare last weekend on I-70.  CDOT had blamed the accidents and delays on drivers with bald tires but the employee said it had nothing to do with unprepared drivers and everything to do with poor road conditions.

"We were putting down Apex or the Slicer mix because we had absolutely no mag chloride," he said.

The plow driver said that simply created black ice.

"We had very little sand, the only sand we could get was out of the other side, out of Region 3," he said.

According to an internal email obtained by 7NEWS, a severe winter season has left the Colorado Department of Transportation "broke." A department spokeswoman, however, says the situation is more nuanced than that.

The email is dated Febb 13, 2014 and was sent to plow drivers by Mark Gocha, a Region 1 CDOT manager.

In the email, Gocha writes, "as most have heard by now, we are broke and will not be getting anymore winter product like Slicer, Sand or Apex, we cannot even order supplies, not even toilet paper."

The email goes on to say, "I have closed out all purchase orders, stopped the ordering of supplies as well as stopping all credit card purchases."

In response to 7NEWS' questions about the email, CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford acknowledged that the early and extreme winter has eaten up about $40 million of the department's $60 million budget.

She was careful to point out, however, that the department's primary service is to keep the roads safe and plowed in the winter.  Ford said the mountain region is stocked for about three winter storms and more supplies are on the way.

"We were a little low here in the last week or so after the storms that we had last weekend and we're actually shifting supplies here over this week up into the mountains to make sure they're stocked," Ford said.

Despite what the email claimed, Ford told 7NEWS CDOT is still purchasing supplies. She also noted that if the department breaks its winter budget, it can turn to contingency funds.

"I think what it is, it's about messages and how they travel throughout the levels of CDOT. One of the things that we always want to be doing is be cognizant of taxpayers' dollars and spending money wisely. One of the things we want to make sure is that those moneys are spent on the most essential services and for us, especially in the situation in the mountains right now, those things are supplies. We wanted to stop the kind of orders that maybe weren’t essential services. I think the message unfortunately got to a point where people were under the impression that they needed to stop everything while things got sorted out and that’s not the case," Ford said.