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D.C. Mayor Fenty faces big test on snow-removal efforts

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D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said the city has been working to clear roads despite the accumulation of snow over the past week and a half.

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By Tim Craig and Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) will face one of the biggest tests of his mayoral term Tuesday morning when potentially hundreds of thousands of motorists descend on the District to try to reclaim a sense of normalcy after a historic dumping of snow.

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After hundreds of plow crews spent the weekend scraping, scooping and hauling away snow, Fenty said Monday that the city has made significant progress in freeing snow-clogged streets

"We are down to pavement on virtually every residential street," Fenty said.

But with city schools and the District and federal governments expected to open, questions remain about whether Fenty's snow-removal efforts can live up to expectations.

On Friday, when officials last sought to claim victory over the storm by reopening the federal government, massive traffic tie-ups turned the city turned into a miserable mess.

The traffic jams -- caused by thoroughfares that had been substantially narrowed by snowbanks -- were so bad that AAA Mid-Atlantic declared District motorists had just sat through the worst gridlock since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Over the weekend, city crews stepped up efforts to plow major routes, including Connecticut Avenue, curb to curb. Fenty said he hopes the efforts, which will continue into midweek, reduce the congestion.

"We are spending a lot of time and energy and resources to try to go curb to curb," said Fenty, who conceded that crews wouldn't be able to reach all major streets by rush hour Tuesday morning.

The challenge couldn't be more critical for Fenty, who is up for reelection this year and has staked his reputation on making local government work better for District residents.

Fenty received high marks for the District's response to the Dec. 19 snowstorm, which dropped about 20 inches on the city, but over the past week both national media outlets and some D.C. Council members have questioned Fenty's ability to oversee the District's snow removal.

"This was an act of God, and we have to remember that, but unfortunately politicians are judged by this," said John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "For many politicians, the inability to remove snow becomes a political Waterloo, and it creates a crisis in confidence and causes people to become very, very angry."

But there were signs Monday that some residents are giving Fenty some credit for navigating the city through back-to-back snowstorms, which dropped about three feet in five days.


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