Sunday, March 1, 2009

Daddy, I gotta pee (and other stories)

VDOT, the Virginia Department of Transportation, has announced cutbacks that everyone will feel - commuters, truckers, and the traveling family. The agency is trying to cut about $2.6 billion in spending and plans to layoff over 1,400 employees.
The headliner in the Shenandoah Valley has been VDOT's plan to close 25 rest areas statewide, including all of them along I-81's 323 miles from Tennessee to West Virginia. That's a long way to go without a potty break and more than a minor inconvenience for truckers who use the rest areas to catch a few winks - for them, and all who share the busy corridor, it is a real safety issue. Perhaps one of the consequences will be more business at the fast food and mom & pop stores that are found at most exits. Junior may need to pee, but once there the family may want a Happy Meal or drink. Another consequence will be more trucks parked along exits and perhaps in shopping centers and Wal-Mart lots found in nearby towns and cities.
VDOT also anticipates consolidating their five offices in the Staunton District. The plan is to close the Verona and Luray offices and shift duties and employees to the Edinburg, Harrisonburg, and Lexington offices. The Harrisonburg office would become the managing office overseeing a huge geographic area. Local governments worry about the implications for response time for snow removal, clearing fallen trees, and especially for cleaning up after accidents.
Of course, projects are on-hold or cancelled, perhaps pending stimulus money coming to the rescue for some. Lesser known consequences for rural areas will be greatly reduced maintenance and no dust abatement for gravel roads (I've read that Augusta County has more miles of these roads than any county in the state; other Valley counties have significant mileage, too). Might be good for business of alignment shops and car washes, but not for the residents of those roads. Mowing and pruning of limbs, snow removal, dead animal pick-ups will all be cut back with convenience and safety implications. Country roads take me home...?
If you want to comment on VDOT's plans, you can do so by email, by visiting the VDOT website, or attending a public hearing at the Augusta County Government Center in Verona on March 12 at 6:00 PM. Other meetings are scheduled around the state.

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