As yet another winter storm barrages the Northeast, municipalities are running critically low on the road salt needed to keep us all from embarrassing ourselves like certain cities in the South. But by New Jersey logic, where there's traffic, there just might be a scandal.
Over at the Jersey Tomato Press, Diane Lilli is trying to figure out why "thousands of pounds of precious and much needed road salt is sitting in East Rutherford at MetLife stadium." Lilli points to a press conference held at MetLife Stadium this past December, during which officials -- under the authority of Chris Christie -- boasted of having 60,000 tons of road salt stored in preparation for the brutal winter.
Meanwhile, an unnamed eyewitness told Lilli that his attempt to get more salt last week from Port Newark was thwarted by the same powers: "'There were 150-200 big trucks, filled with the salt, our salt,' he said, obviously upset. 'I asked for salt, and the guy there told me they were too low, and that it was there, on those trucks, headed to MetLife stadium for the Super Bowl.'"
Gizmodo did some digging and found this news item, which reports that the N.J. Road Department was indeed concentrating its salt supplies on the roads surrounding the stadium, just in case a storm were to hit last weekend. Vernon Mayor Victor Marotta said that the huge amount of salt set aside for that purpose had prevented his township from getting the supply it needed to weather the most recent storm.
Joe Dee, a New Jersey DOT spokesman, denied the accusations that MetLife Stadium is behind the shortage, telling Gizmodo:
Of course [MetLife Stadium] needs salt for their parking lots and roadways leading out of the sports complex. That's something they do every year—purchasing supplies for their needs. But we have salt domes all over the state that we fill in the beginning of the year; vendors bring the salt out to us on scheduled deliveries. It's an established process.
"In terms of MetLife Stadium having some vast supply of salt, I'm not aware that that's necessarily true. There isn't some huge supply just sitting there."
Of course, New Jersey is far from the only state experiencing a salt shortage. In New York, it's caused Gov. Cuomo to declare a state of emergency; as freezing rain and ice fell Wednesday, he announced that he's sending 130 truckloads worth of salt downstate to where it's most needed and lifting restrictions that would normally slow salt from being brought in from other states. And the AP reports that communities from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania are anticipating a much higher demand than usual:
As piles of snow grow taller during this seemingly endless winter, the mounds of salt for spreading on the nation's icy, slushy roads are shrinking, forcing communities to ration supplies or try exotic new ice-melting substances.
Cities have already gone through most of their salt well ahead of the time they traditionally really need it — when the coldest part of winter gives way to temperatures just warm enough to turn snow into freezing rain and sleet and roads into ribbons of ice.
...So far this year, [the Chicago suburb of] Glen Ellyn's snow-removal crews have responded to 31 storms.
"In an average winter, we have 20," Hansen said.