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.'