- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

Road crews that had not yet recovered from last week's snowstorm and the resultant potholes were forced out of bed early yesterday to prepare for yet another major storm tonight.
"You got all this pressure, 'Clear the snow, clear the snow,' and then you have potholes, then you have reporters asking, 'What are you doing with the potholes?'" said Robert Marsili, chief of bridge and street maintenance for the District.
"C'mon spring," he said, looking out the window of his command trailer in Northeast at the falling flakes yesterday.
Mr. Marsili said he and his deputy director worked two 30-hour stretches last week directing the effort to get D.C. roads clear.
"I haven't seen my wife much lately. … I'm tired of it. We're all tired of it. It's been nonstop all winter. It snowed on my birthday. It snowed on Christmas," he said.
This week's additional snow is bad news for many street maintenance workers who wanted rest after working long hours to clean up the Presidents Day weekend storm, during which 16 to 28 inches of snow fell across the region. Road crews were still loading snow into dump trucks along major highways last weekend.
Transportation officials estimated that some workers put in more than 100 hours last week. John DiGiovanni, support services chief for Montgomery County, said crews worked an average of 140 hours over 10 days, doing snow removal and then pothole repair.
"Our people are exhausted," he said.
Sandra Dobson of the Maryland State Highway Administration said maintenance crews worked a total of 110,520 hours of overtime last week.
"I think everyone would like a break at this point," Ms. Dobson said.
Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said, "From a blizzard to flooding to high winds to potholes, to another storm that came earlier than expected, and then more on the way they need a break," Ms. Morris said. "But they hang in there. This is what the taxpayers pay us to do."
In addition, all that snow-plowing and salting has taken its toll on equipment.
"We've got a lot of equipment that's damaged and down that we're trying to get fixed," Mr. DiGiovanni said. He estimated that 40 percent to 50 percent of their fleet "needs some kind of attention."
Officials in the District and at the Maryland State Highway Administration said their fleets were in better shape. Most of the District's 100 plowing pieces are only 2 years old, Mr. Marsili said.
Ms. Dobson said the state highway agency never has more than 3 percent to 5 percent of its fleet in the shop.
In Virginia, where VDOT maintains all county roads, Ms. Morris said, "The more abuse it takes, the more breakdowns we have. That comes with the weather," she said. She did not have an estimate of how much of the fleet was down for repairs.
To make matters even worse, the same crews who plow the snow are the ones who have to repair potholes, which sprang up in abundance after the Presidents Day storm, prompting the mid-Atlantic chapter of the AAA to ask drivers to e-mail nominations for the worst roads.
Mr. Marsili said that 65 percent of his fleet was concentrating on salting roads and doing minor plowing yesterday, and that six crews were still working on potholes. He intends to keep as many crews as he can on potholes, no matter how much snow falls today and tomorrow.
"We're definitely hoping this is the last big one," he said. "It's like the 11th or 12th round of a fight. This is the stuff that separates the men from the boys. This makes or breaks people."


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