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SNOQUALMIEPASS--Already this winter, Snoqualmie Pass has racked up more than 180 inches of snow, more than fell at this point during the last La Nina winterin 2008-09.

At this time in 2008-2009 the snow total was closer to 130 inches on Snoqualmie Pass -- a difference of more thanfour feet. And when that winter was over,theactual costfor keeping Snoqualmie Pass clear was almost $1 million more than budgeted.

But even last year's winter that saw less snow but requied $200,000 more for costly de-icing fluid. Overall last winter, the statewide budget for snow and ice removal used less than half the money, which should help out this winter.

This year, the state has again allocated $2.9 million to keep I-90 open between North Bend on the westside and Easton in Kittitas County.That money covers salt, sand, de-icing fluid, labor, avalanche control, fuel, maintenance and other expenses.The totals for this December won't be known until next month. That budget is based on an averagefrom six years of snow and ice removal history.

There's no cutting back.WSDOT saysthe direction from the legisture and Governor Gregoire is to provide level of service. The passes are considered critical to the state's economy, particularly I-90 which is a major transcontinental truck route and millions of dollars worth of commerce goes on hold every minute the interstate is shut down.

The storm just before Thanksgiving cost about $5 million in snow removal.

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