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Crews wait hours in long lines for salt ahead of storm

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    New Haven, Connecticut (WFSB) — Hundreds of truck drivers waited in line in New Haven for salt as they tried to prepared for more rounds of winter storms this week.

Concerns about a potential salt shortage led to the lines at the Gateway Terminal in New Haven.

Contractors tried to work ahead and get their salt supplies over the weekend with the majority relying on the salt pile in the Elm City.

The lines continued Monday morning.

According to a statement from Gateway Terminal, it said there’s adequate supply, but so many contractors came over the weekend, waited for hours, and got turned away, because of the high demand.

One driver from Cape Cod said he usually picks up salt in Providence, RI. However, the pile there was completely gone.

“It is frustrating and we all just gotta work together and that’s just how it is but, it’s just a supply and demand thing just like when COVID hit,” said Joe Spirito, salt truck driver. “There was no toilet paper or paper towels. Same thing down here with the salt.”

Another person Channel 3 spoke with said there’s other consequences happening.

For days, long lines have filled the Elm City’s streets around the Gateway Terminal, hoping to get at least one load of salt.

“It’s better today than it was on Saturday, that’s for use, but two and a half hours for one load of salt, it’s a long time,” said Gary Lyons.

Even after waiting more than five hours, some got turned away with no salt.

“It’s costing us an extra $90 to get there, an extra $90 back,” said Rick Whittle of Allied Snow Removal in Stonington.

Whittle said it adds up having to drive to New Haven, not to mention wait.

“Then, we wait in line for a minimum of two hours. That’s another $180, so it’s costing me an additional $360 per load,” Whittle explained.

He said he had ten salt stockpiles to fill for his fleet.

“After each event, each pile needs two loads, so this is costing me an extra $720 per pile to refill, which is about $7,200 per snow event,” Whittle said.

Given Allied is one of the biggest contractors for the state, Whittle said the added costs will end up on taxpayers.

He, like many others, pointed to the closure of the New London port’s salt storage operations as the root of the problem. He said that is forcing 90 percent of contractors in the state to rely on the pile in New Haven.

Whittle felt there should be room at the New London port for salt, even with the new wind turbine development.

“[It’s] nothing short of a complete disaster,” added Whittle.

In a new statement, the Gateway Terminal said:
To our valued customers and fellow Connecticut residents, we want to clarify and correct some recent news coverage and the misconception that there is a lack of salt supply and that prices have increased for local contractors. For over 30 years, Gateway has provided terminal services and storage to global salt companies. We currently have two customers – Morton Salt and Champion Salt – who operate out of our New Haven terminal, using it as a storage facility for their salt distribution operation. These two companies supply salt to the State of Connecticut DOT and municipalities. In addition, Gateway provides salt supply to local, commercial contractors and landscapers, which is a materially smaller market relative to the DOT and municipal market. Selling salt to the commercial market is a small portion of Gateway’s overall business activity. We want to stress that there is no shortage of salt – Gateway, Champion, and Morton all have an ample supply for the winter. There is another 55,000 tons of salt being unloaded later this week, with a second vessel expected before mid-March. Gateway has not increased prices for our customers, despite what has been reported. We had a previously planned increase as a result of the increase in our cost to purchase salt, but that did not go into effect and was suspended indefinitely. Even though our cost to purchase salt has increased (freight rates have increased materially, increasing our salt purchase price), we have decided to keep prices unchanged for as long as possible in an effort to help local contractors. The extreme winter weather has led to a significant increase in salt demand, which resulted in longer than usual wait times to access salt at Gateway Terminal over the weekend. In addition to demand from Connecticut commercial contractors, out-of-state contractors who were unable to secure salt in their respective states have turned to New Haven to source their supply, further increasing demand and wait times over this past weekend. While the high volume of truck activity led to initial delays over the past week, we have dramatically reduced our wait times this week and will continue to work hard to meet the high demand. On average, Gateway is processing approximately 650 trucks per day: 500 for DOT and municipalities that are carrying Morton and Champion salt and 150 for local contractors and landscape companies from Gateway stockpile. Current waiting times are approximately 2 – 2 1/2 hours for contractors, while DOT wait times are limited. Champion is open at 4:00 a.m. daily; Gateway and Morton are open at 6:00 a.m. daily. Extended hours are considered if the DOT sheds wish to remain open. DOT sheds are being kept full; therefore, we do not see any impacts to the highways or citizens of CT. We are continuing to ask our customers to please plan accordingly as we work hard to alleviate any delays in service. We put the safety of our community as our top priority. We strongly urge everyone to exercise safety and avoid driving during hazardous conditions.

While contractors have been having issues, the state Department of Transportation said it has an ample salt supply on hand and is prepared for this week’s weather.

However, salt truck drivers still warned other drivers to expect the roads to be crazy this week when the slippery conditions hit.

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