State salt shipment delayed to next month

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation had 800 tons of salt left at its facility in East Providence on Tuesday, less than half of what is normally stored there.

And if and when this is gone, there's no back up to replenish it.

"Zero. Port of Providence, International Salt has no salt," RIDOT Director Michael Lewis said.

The bulk supply of road salt at the Port of Providence is empty.

"This is widespread weather pattern, so there's been a lot of use of salt across the U.S. and other parts of the world that exceeds what the average is," Lewis said.

International Salt, which supplies the Port of Providence, said its overall demand region-wide increased 136 percent this winter.

For its part the DOT has used 50 percent more salt this season than its five-year average.

One thing that's helped DOT is the technology on its trucks that controls and regulates salt application.

"There's GPS on the trucks so we can see where applications are happening, what roads have been treated, which ones haven't," said Joe Baker of RIDOT.

Seventy percent of the state fleet has the technology.

"You have your gate that comes up and down and that's where the salt actually comes out and gets applied out of sander," Baker said.

Despite the efficiency, the DOT said its salt use is up so much because of the frequency and types of storms that have hit the region.

"When you have freezing rain and ice, that needs more salt," Lewis said.

There was hope a shipment could come into Providence later this week. But now the earliest scheduled shipment is March 1.

The town of North Smithfield said it has run out of salt and that it will use sand to treat roads until more supplies of salt become available.