HARRISONBURG—This morning, Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) and Del. Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) met with Governor Tim Kaine to outline their concerns about the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)'s “Blueprint for the Future,” which includes the closure of twenty-five rest stops as well as reductions in road maintenance, snow and ice removal, and other services.Senator Obenshain represents the twenty-sixth district in the Virginia Senate. The district includes the city of Harrisonburg and the counties of Warren, Shenandoah, Page, Rappahannock and Rockingham (part).
In a meeting that ran about forty minutes, Obenshain and Gilbert relayed their concerns, and those of their constituents, about the adverse impact these service reductions would have on all Virginians, but especially on those who rely on rural roads, which take a disproportionate hit in the revised maintenance budget.
“The Governor told us that he has been hearing from citizens across the Commonwealth who oppose the decision to close the rest areas,” said Obenshain, noting that Gov. Kaine gave no indication of whether the proposal would be reconsidered. “Until a final decision is reached, I would urge concerned citizens to continue expressing their thoughts on this important safety issue.”
“By VDOT's own estimate, rest areas decrease the number of accidents on our interstates by over four percent, yet this important fact is not taken into account when calculating the supposed savings of closing twenty-five rest areas,” added Obenshain, calling for VDOT to reconsider its spending priorities.
Although the Governor told Obenshain and Gilbert that he was insufficiently familiar with proposed changes to roadway maintenance standards to comment extensively, he promised to look into the issue, and both legislators will continue to work to ensure that information about these important revisions are subjected to public scrutiny.
Senator Obenshain and Delegate Gilbert have been at the forefront of the effort to ensure that VDOT's most vital priorities, especially those directly pertaining to safety, do not suffer while wasteful or unnecessary spending remains in the Department's budget. Renewing his call for an outside audit of VDOT, Obenshain recently launched www.vdotwaste.com, a website permitting Virginians to take a stand for fiscal responsibility and to report wasteful spending they have witnessed.
“My office is reviewing each tip or idea we receive, and I can assure you that the Governor and his staff will be hearing from me and from Virginians as momentum grows for a major reform of VDOT,” said Obenshain. “This approach is imperfect, but until VDOT submits to an outside performance audit, it falls to all of us to help hold VDOT accountable.”
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