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Salt shortages bring trucks from as far as New York City to Ogdensburg

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OGDENSBURG - Salt shortages across New York and Canada sent an unprecedented number of trucks to the Port of Ogdensburg Monday.

“To my knowledge this has never happened in the history of the port,” Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Executive Director Wade A. Davis said. “It’s truly an exciting week for the Port of Ogdensburg and Northern New York.”

Hundreds of trucks came to the port over the weekend and waited throughout the day Monday from the Port Access Road through Ford Street for their turn to collect road salt. The line caused traffic congestion on Ford Street Extension, as trucks were backed all the way out to Route 37.

The congestion is likely to continue until Thursday, port Director of Operations Steven J. Lawrence said.

“There have been greater amount of people than we ever had, so I didn’t know what to expect at first, but so far it is has gone smoothly,” Mr. Lawrence said. “It’s been a little bit of a burden to the local truckers who aren’t used to this kind of delay, so we are trying to accommodate them as best we can.”

But despite traffic hassles, the increased volume means good news for the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, Mr. Davis said.

“This really helps to increase the relevance and reach of the Port of Ogdensburg,” he said. “We’re seeing for the first time trucks coming from the city of New York and Buffalo. The New York City Department of Sanitation alone has ordered 15,000 tons.”

Trucks from as far away as Torontohave also come to collect salt, Mr. Davis said.

Typically, each tractor trailer hauls between 32 and 36 tons, while smaller-sized trailers hold about 20 tons, Mr. Lawrence said.

Logistically, the port has not had to make any changes to handle the extra volume, Mr. Lawrence said.

The OBPA has been prepared for increased output since before December’s ice storm. The port leased an extra loader from Tracey Road Equipment Inc., Watertown, before the storm, Mr. Lawrence said.

“We’ve accommodated St. Lawrence County and local townships as needed,” he said. “We’ve worked a couple of weekends and extended hours to meet their needs.”

Mr. Lawrence also created a shortcut in the summer of 2013 to give trucks faster access through the port from the main access road.

The salt is shipped from three major companies and distributed from the port. Mr. Davis credited competing incentives and restructuring five-year contracts with salt companies for the increase in truck volume.

“We need to remember this access road came about because of [Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s] leadership,” Mr. Davis said. “The state of New York and everybody here in the north country advocated for this. Without this access road, we wouldn’t have the scales and all these folks would be backed up the width of Paterson Street.”

Frederick S. Morrill, OBPA deputy executive director and chief financial officer, said the port had close to 200,000 tons of salt at the start of the season. On average, between 120,000 and 160,000 tons is shipped to the port each year.

Over 115,000 tons has been distributed so far, he said, which is highly unusual, Mr. Morrill said.

“We’re thinking there won’t be any left over come spring,” Mr. Morrill said. “Normally we have a little bit of carryover.”

The financial payback as a result of the increased volume has yet to be determined, but Mr. Morrill said the port’s future looks bright.

“I think what this really foretells is that there will be more ships this summer,” he said. “It shows that the ships are coming and volume incentives are working. I think the offshoot of that will mean more work and more people.”

The OBPA had a record seven salt shipments last year, Mr. Morrill said. That number is likely to increase this year based on the overwhelming demand for salt.

The port currently employs 67 longshoremen who are called in as neededand a full-time staff of 27, Mr. Davis said.

“Employment is the real focus here, because in the absence of us being able to handle this project, none of these folks would be at work here today,” Mr. Davis said.

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