Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obenshain launches VDOT waste website

HARRISONBURG—Today, Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) unveiled a new website that provides a forum for Virginians of all walks of life to take action where state government will not: holding the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) accountable.

As VDOT moves towards the enactment of a “Blueprint for the Future” that includes the closure of 25 rest areas and radically downgraded road maintenance and snow and ice removal standards across Virginia, especially in rural areas, the Department has contended that budget realities give them little choice but to cut essential services.

For years, however, the Department has resisted efforts to secure an outside audit, and even today, significant amounts of waste remain untouched as critical safety measures go under the knife. Renewing his call for an outside audit of VDOT, Obenshain said, “Just a week ago at a public hearing in Verona, one member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board dismissed as pointless public calls for an audit, asserting that VDOT is the most audited organization he knows. If that's true, I suggest that he should get out more. Next year, auditing VDOT has to be a top priority, but the fact is that we don't have that long. If VDOT won't submit to an outside audit, we will have to conduct an informal one of our own.”

Obenshain's new website, located at www.vdotwaste.com, provides an avenue for Virginians to do just that, reporting waste and unnecessary projects. “We'll look into every tip sent our way,” said Obenshain, “and where there's waste, we'll publicize it and hold VDOT's feet to the fire.” It will also serve as a community building support for a formal audit of the Department.

“I don't do this just to pick a fight,” added Obenshain. “My constituents, and people across this Commonwealth, will suffer if VDOT's central office bureaucrats in Richmond downgrade its maintenance standards and board up rest areas across the Commonwealth. Before they create potentially unsafe conditions, officials at VDOT should make every effort to ensure that each dollar is being spent wisely. The people of this Commonwealth deserve nothing less.”

Obenshain pointed to the recent announcement of a pilot program to extend light rail service from Richmond and Lynchburg to Washington, D.C., as an example of misplaced priorities. “I have nothing against commuter rail,” he said, “but compared to basic safety on our existing roadways, its expansion is a low priority. We could keep all the rest stops open for half the cost of this pilot program.”

The “Expose VDOT Waste” website has a companion Facebook group, launched last Friday, which already boasts over 350 members. Integrated with the website, www.vdotwaste.com, it offers Facebook users an opportunity to express their support for transparency and fiscal responsibility at VDOT, and to share their own accounts of VDOT waste and mismanagement.

“All of us can give examples of hard-working VDOT employees who are dedicated to keeping our roads safe,” said Obenshain. “I consider them allies in this fight. This is about getting our priorities straight: let's make sure that we spend our scarce transportation dollars wisely, maintaining our existing roadways, prioritize – not politicize – new construction projects, and above all, let's make sure that wasteful spending doesn't take away from top safety priorities like clearing snow, grading roads, and keeping the rest stops open.”

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).

Cross-posted at SixtyFour81.com

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