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VDOT: 1 - Budget Problems

Posted: March 16, 2009 19:55:03 • By Natasha L. • 375 words

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Thanks to a state budget screw-up, Virginia is planning to close a ton of rest areas on its interstate highways to save money, including all but two along Interstate 81, the northern and southern welcome centers. Which means that there'll be over 320 miles of I-81 with no guaranteed areas to stop for snacks, drinks, bathrooms, or just to get out and stretch.

Of course, there are gas stations and such along the way, but there are parts of the state that are so desolate that there's pretty much nothing. And, with the exception of the semi-major cities along the way (Winchester, Harrisonburg, Roanoke, and Bristol), everything along I-81 closes around 10pm, leaving late-night travelers with, well, nothing. If people stop along the road or on exit ramps, or at closed gas stations, any cops who come by tell them to leave, not to mention the safety concerns of being in the middle of nowhere with no one around.

This isn't the only brain-dead idea VDOT is implementing to save money. They're also planning to cut back on snow removal, particularly in rural areas. Considering how bad Virginia sucks at snow removal compared to other nearby states (like Maryland or Pennsylvania; even West Virginia does a better job on major roads), I really don't want to see it get worse.

All of this is the result of a $2.6 billion projected shortfall over the next six years. How the heck can any government agency not see that big of a deficit coming with at least a little advance notice? To give an idea of the scale of this shortfall, the above-mentioned rest area closings (25 total state-wide) would save $12 million per year, or $72 million over the six-year projected deficit. That makes up about 2.7% of their savings goal.

I haven't been able to find information on how this happened (maybe they were counting on revenues from those wonderful "remedial fees"?), but I'm not looking forward to seeing Virginia's roads falling into this sort of disrepair. I'm sure the roads in NoVA won't suffer, there's too much traffic to cut back on much there, but that means that all of us rural residents will get "de-prioritized" even more.