Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that all of Virginia’s 19 shuttered rest stops and welcome centers will begin reopening starting in mid-February. All facilities will be reopened by April 15th.
In a vote this afternoon, the Commonwealth Transportation Board reversed its previous decision from June of last year to reduce the number of state rest stops and welcome centers from 42 to 23. Governor McDonnell joined Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton at today’s meeting of the CTB.
Speaking about the unanimous vote to reopen the 18 rest stops and the West Manassas Welcome Center, McDonnell noted, “I disagreed with the previous decision to close 19 Virginia rest stops and welcome centers. It negatively impacted public safety, tourism, and economic development. The darkened rest stops presented an image of a Virginia “closed for business.” They left truckers and families without safe and secure areas at which they could get a break from the road, increasing the potential for accidents. Tourists traveling through the state could no longer pull over to learn about Virginia places and sites to visit. Virginians rightly recognized immediately the negative implications of that decision. Today, we have reversed it.”
McDonnell continued, “I fully understand that this is a tough budget. Significant spending cuts must be made. But they must be made with a comprehensive review of the ramifications of each decision on our citizens. I thank Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton for his leadership on this matter, moving within days of taking office to get this action accomplished. I thank the members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board for working with us to achieve this positive result. I look forward to welcoming travelers to the first re-opened rest stop in February.”
Under the plan approved today, the Virginia Department of Transportation will use $3 million from its maintenance reserve fund to operate the facilities through the remainder of this fiscal year which ends June 30. Long-term funding for the rest areas will be identified as VDOT revises its maintenance budget this spring. The maximum anticipated cost for FY 2011 is $7.5 million.
The administration will continue to work with business leadership around the state to develop an “Adopt a Rest Stop” program to permit private sector contributions to defray operation costs. Additional cost savings will be identified in the current maintenance budget, and the Governor will direct the Department of Corrections to supply non-violent inmate work crews for maintenance, landscaping and repair of existing rest areas. The Governor has also directed Secretary Connaughton to explore further innovative ways to improve the rest areas and welcome centers, making them more attractive and inviting for Virginians and tourists.
In June 2009, the CTB voted to scale-back the number of rest areas VDOT operates from 42 to 23 as the agency grapples with a $4.6 billion revenue shortfall over the next six years. Eighteen facilities closed in July and the final facilityâ€”the Interstate 66 West Manassas Welcome Centerâ€”closed in September in an effort to save $9 million annually.
Crews will now begin to restore utilities, re-stock traveler information centers, clean the facilities, install vending machines and restore rest area grounds to public use standards before removing gates and reopening the facilities.
Changes the CTB made to truck parking hours and additional 225 truck parking spaces that were added at the 23 facilities that were not closed will not be revisited. These enhanced truck amenities will remain in place and the extended truck parking hours will be in place at all 42 facilities.
The 19 rest areas slated to reopen include:
- I-81 North Rural Retreat
- I-81 South Smyth
- I-81 North Radford
- I-81 South Troutville
- I-81 North Mt. Sidney
- I-81 South Mt. Sidney
- I-81 South New Market
- I-95 North Ladysmith
- I-95 South Ladysmith
- I-95 North Dale City (cars)
- I-95 South Dale City (cars)
- I-66 East Manassas
- I-64 East Goochland
- I-64 West Goochland
- I-85 North Dinwiddie
- I-85 South Dinwiddie
- I-85 North Alberta
- I-85 South Alberta
- I-66 West Manassas Welcome Center