D.C., VA, MD to Apply for Federal Aid as Snow Eats Into Transport Budgets

4348010010_e4fdbe6a68.jpgThe scene in D.C. this
week. (Photo: thisisbossi via Flickr)

Washington
D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are set to apply for federal disaster aid
to offset the costs of cleanup from this month’s record-breaking
mid-Atlantic blizzards, according to the Washington
Post
reports today. But the so-called Snowpocalypse could dent more
than just worker
productivity
— already crunched transportation budgets are also
on  the line.

In Virginia, new Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) warned
before yesterday’s second round of storms that the state would have to
use part of its road maintenance and repair budget to pay for highway
plowing and extra police duty.

Virginia had already
sliced
$893 million from its long-term transportation budget in its
most recent round of belt-tightening, bringing the state’s total cuts
to $4.6 billion … or the
equivalent
of running six years of transportation programs with
five years of funding.

Maryland, among the first states to set up a dedicated transportation
trust fund
, is not in as dire of a budget situation as its southern
neighbor. Yet budget analysts in the legislature are
pressing
for about $60 million a year to be taken from that trust
fund to cover Maryland’s general budget shortfall.

Meanwhile, the state transportation secretary acknowledged
that
if snow removal costs grow too burdensome this year, spending
on capital projects (such as the proposed new Red Line transit system) may
need to be diverted.

Finally, though the capital’s $6.2 million snow-clearing budget was
already exhausted by a massive Christmas-week blizzard, D.C.’s
transportation department has offered few details on where any extra
funds would come from. A "reprogram" of
money from other accounts has been mentioned, but city officials appear
to be putting their hopes in a successful appeal for assistance from
Congress.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), a longtime supporter
of
D.C.’s Metro transit system, summed up the region’s sense of
urgency this way in a statement to the Post:

[Homeland Security] Secretary [Janet] Napolitano said she
would call it the Valentine’s Day Storm. I said, ‘Don’t send chocolates,
don’t send flowers,
send dough for snow.’

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