- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

Area highway officials acknowledge that Hurricane Isabel and last winter’s snowstorm depleted their budgets but said the situation will not slow snow-removal efforts.

Virginia was hardest hit.

Officials for the state’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) said the hurricane drained their budget until the Commonwealth Transportation Board recently agreed to allocate an additional $22 million, which gives the agency $80 million for snow-removal operations throughout the state.

“Hurricane Isabel costs pose a significant burden on VDOT’s budget, but the necessary adjustments can be made without [affecting] critical maintenance functions,” said VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet.

Maryland’s State Highway Administration said money spent on storm cleanups will not hurt snow-removal efforts.

The agency spent more than three times its allotted amount for snow removal in fiscal 2003.

“We set aside $21 million annually [for snow removal], and that’s what our budget is this year,” said Kellie Boulware, spokeswoman for the agency. “We don’t expect to go into [other allotted funds] if we go over budget. Last storm season, we spent $74 million in snow removal, but we filed for federal assistance, which acted as a supplement for us. You cannot predict things like the Presidents Day storm. Hopefully, Mother Nature will cooperate.”

Agency officials said that preparations for winter weather began in the summer and that about 2,400 workers, more than 2,000 pieces of equipment and 246,000 tons of salt will be available this winter.

“The men and women of [the State Highway Administration] are ready to keep Maryland’s roads safe all winter,” said Neil J. Pedersen, agency administrator.

Like Maryland, the District allocates a specific amount for snow removal, roughly $3.2 million.

Bill Rice, spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation, said Hurricane Isabel and summer storms did not affect the budget.

The District went $500,000 over its $3.2 million snow-removal budget in fiscal 2003.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams recently told employees from the two agencies in charge of snow removal — the Departments of Transportation and Public Works — that they met last winter’s situation with “skill, dedication, initiative and perseverance.”

Officials for the departments said they have made several improvements that should help them this winter with snow removal, including new weather stations, closed-circuit TV cameras and automatic vehicle locators, which show the locations of vehicles as they clear their routes.

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