The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) today officially reopened four rest areas on Interstate 81. The facilities include:
- I-81 North Rural Retreat
- I-81 South Smyth
- I-81 South New Market
- I-81 North Radford
Last month, the Commonwealth Transportation Board responded to Gov. Bob McDonnell’s call to reopen 19 closed rest areas by reversing its June 2009 decision to reduce the number of VDOT rest areas and welcome centers from 42 to 23.
Eighteen facilities closed in July 2009 and the final facility – the Interstate 66 West Manassas Welcome Center – closed in September in an effort to save $9 million annually as the agency grapples with a $4.6 billion revenue shortfall over the next six years.
In preparation for the I-81 rest area reopenings, VDOT crews have restored utilities, re-stocked traveler information centers, cleaned the facilities, installed vending machines and restored rest area grounds.
Gates blocking motorists’ entry to these four rest areas were opened over the last week while VDOT crews completed final electrical, plumbing and facility testing. All work is now complete and the rest areas are officially open for business.
VDOT will use $3 million from its emergency maintenance reserve fund to operate facilities through the remainder of the fiscal year which ends June 30. Long-term funding for the rest areas will be identified as VDOT revises its maintenance budget this spring.
Eight additional rest areas are slated to open by March 17, with the remaining seven rest areas scheduled to open by April 15.