Winter blows up local snow budgets

WASHINGTON — As the region deals with snow storm after snow storm, all the agencies are dealing with far over their snow removal budgets for the winter.

Virginia’s Department of Transportation (VDOT) has spent about $156 million on snow removal this winter, although its budget was only $63 million.

“We will look at paving, equipment and materials to help with the costs. We could delay advertising some paving contracts as an example,” writes VDOT spokeswoman Joan Morris.

VDOT began an aggressive repaving operation after the General Assembly passed new transportation funding in 2013 to upgrade the conditions on primary and secondary roads through the Commonwealth. In Virginia, VDOT is responsible for repaving primary and secondary roads. Counties like Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun don’t plow snow.

Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) has spent $123 million statewide on snow removal, although their budget was only $46 million. SHA has averaged about $70 million spent on snow removal each of the past five years, so this year is well above the norm.

“Keep in mind, as bad as the winter has been here in the D.C.-Baltimore Metro area, we also take care of roads in western Maryland where we have had 181 inches of snow as of Tuesday. That’s 15 feet of snow,” writes SHA spokesman Dave Buck.

“Winter has been rough. We are all looking forward to spring,” he says.

In Maryland, the SHA paves numbered roads like Md. 355/Rockville Pike, Md. 214/Central Avenue, or Md. 198/Sandy Spring Road. Buck says the SHA hasn’t discussed how to make up the budget deficit, but conversations will begin in the spring.

Maryland counties pave the local roads and are also feeling the effects on their budgets.

Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation spent $21 million on snow removal before the latest storm hit on Monday. Updated numbers are not available yet, but the total snow removal budget for the agency was $9.1 million.

However, the Montgomery County Council also appropriated another $6 million on non-departmental accounts, which is a catchall for events that affect multiple departments in the government.

Snow removal qualifies because several agencies in Montgomery County coordinate on local snow plowing.

Nonetheless, the Montgomery County Executive’s office will have to re-approach the County Council in the spring to get supplemental budget appropriates to make up the shortfall.

County spokeswoman Esther Bowring tells WTOP that such supplemental filings are commonplace and she’s confident the County Council will agree to the additional funding after the winter season wraps up.

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