Winter rough on city’s 2014 snow-removal budget

Written By BY STEFANO ESPOSITO, FRAN SPIELMAN AND LEEANN SHELTON Staff Reporters Posted: 01/29/2014, 07:38pm
Array With temperatures hovering around -10 degrees commuters wait for a bus January 27, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The city has had 18 days at or below zero so far this winter, two shy of the 20-day record. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 465897039

It’s not yet February, and Chicago has just $5 million remaining of a $20.5 million snow removal budget to cover this winter and the start of next — and we may see snow again before the weekend.

Until then, the arctic blast that closed Chicago Public Schools for two straight days will warm to the upper teens on Wednesday, a balmy forecast compared with the minus 40 degree wind chills that seized the beginning of the week.

Commuters should also have an easier time Wednesday. Metra, Amtrak and the South Shore Line all plan to run normal schedules, although trains may still run slower than normal because of the cold. Metra’s North Central Service, which was halted Tuesday following a freight train derailment, will resume Wednesday morning, the rail agency said.

A wind-chill advisory remains until 9 a.m., as wind chills could reach 15 to 25 degrees below zero overnight, according to the National Weather Service. Highs will remain in the upper teens until Friday, when forecasters say snow is likely.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to reassure winter-weary Chicagoans that the city would not run out of salt or money to plow the streets.

“One, our roads in the city of Chicago are going to remain paved and plowed and passable,” he said. “Two, we’re going to have the salt we need when we need it. And three, we’re going to do it [with] a balanced budget. That’s the commitment we made and we’re going to continue to do it. The city did not come and will not come to a standstill. Our public transportation system will move people and our streets will be passable.”

The mayor did not explain where the money would come from when the $5 million left in the snow removal budget runs out.

Other sources pointed to a $6 million surplus in a motor fuel tax fund that’s supposed to go toward paving streets and filling the explosion of potholes caused by heavy moisture and dramatic temperature swings.

Many disheartened Chicagoans turned to Twitter Monday and Tuesday to voice their frustrations.

“It’s so cold in Chicago that I can’t even think of how to be funny about it. It just sucks. It’s not funny,” tweeted one.

Ashley Pipes, 29, of River North, had a more optimistic outlook: “The weather sucks, but hang in there, because summer in Chicago is the best.”

Contributing: Mitch Dudek

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