Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Democrat Kaine & VDOT closing 18 rest areas ... call & protest

~Valley I-81 rest areas slated to close July 20~

Call Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine and tell him NOT to close rest areas: (804) 786-2211 (see additional contact info below). You may also want to ask for an audit of VDOT.

Democrat Gov. Tim Kaine can be held accountable for playing political games with taxpayers' money and their kidneys at a time when the General Assembly is not in session and the people of Virginia have not been polled about closing interstate rest areas.

Rest areas along roadways in Virginia are a way of life, a convenience for citizens, and a welcome sight for out-of-state travelers. They are also an integral part of safety while driving endless miles of interstate ... literally becoming "rest" areas to pull over when getting sleepy behind the wheel.

Now comes word that 18 rest areas will be closing July 20. The alternative? From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

"These are so much better than we have in Canada," Stan Jacobs said. "In Canada, you pretty much got to run to the bushes."
What is it with Democrats who want to go backwards and copy Canada in health care and rest areas? So we have a possibility of people relieving themselves along the roadways? Gee, thanks, Gov. Kaine.

While driving to Harrisonburg Monday, I saw flashing signs positioned on the shoulders of I-81 at the Mount Sidney rest areas at mile marker 242.4 announcing the closure of the northbound rest area on July 20 and the southbound rest area on July 21.

Politics? You betcha.

First, what better time to rouse travelers' ire than closing rest areas during the busy summer travel season?

Second, rest areas are a result of taxpayer money that Virginia citizens can actually see and use as opposed to the pork that is in the budget that could have been cut.

It was not long ago that VDOT poured millions of dollars into the Colonial Downs rest area on I-64 near Williamsburg. Now we cannot keep others open? Why would the Virginia Department of Transportation play games with the Commonwealth's citizens by closing popular rest areas?

Check out VDOT's budget here. Check out their plans for I-81 here.

Tim Kaine could have stopped this ... but he didn't.

Republican reps have tried for months to halt this senseless move. Now Democrat Gov. Kaine, who also is the Democratic National Committee chairman and MIA from his job in Richmond much of the time these days, has moved ahead with the closings at a time when the General Assembly is not in session and representatives can do nothing about it.

It makes no sense except ... it smacks of politics.

The list of 18 rest areas being closed July 21 by Democrat Gov. Kaine and VDOT:
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
The Waynesboro News Virginian reminded of past inquiries into VDOT's accountability:
Some minds inquire but don’t yet know. Bob McDonnell ... roughly a year ago urged lawmakers to order an external audit of the Virginia Department of Transportation. Chapped that VDOT planned to close a string of Interstate 81 rest areas to cut costs, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, and Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, echoed the call in March. Responses flowed like hardened mud.

Its balances unchecked by independent snoopers, VDOT has proceeded with the whittling Obenshain, along with a pair of Republican locals, Sen. Chris Saxman, of Staunton, and Del. Steve Landes, of Weyers Cave, detested. The agency announced Thursday that it would shutter 19 rest areas, reaping $9 million in savings as part of $1.5 billion in cuts in a six-year improvement program.

Stops in Mount Sidney made the list. For most motorists, the move is a trifle. Not so for truckers. They rely on rest areas particularly on highways like I-81, a glorious ride for ordinary drives but a grind for professionals making hauls up steep grades on 18 wheels. Rest areas provide a chance to cool heels along with gears.
Why didn't Tim Kaine tell VDOT to cut pork before cutting services that would affect the public?

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that VDOT plans to "mothball" the rest areas. Columnist Bill Lohmann jokes that rest areas brought all kinds of relief. But he is spot-on with some of his comments:
Out-of-state visitors might be enchanted by the history of Jamestown, the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the solitude of the Eastern Shore, but they'll go home, and you know what they'll tell their neighbors? "I really had to pee," they'll say, "and Virginia locked its bathrooms."
Having traveled much of America by car, my family can tell you which states have nice rest areas (and, yes, Virginia ranks up there as one of the best) and which states have awful rest areas. It definitely leaves an impression.

Del. Chris Saxman tried to bring attention to the issue here and here. Senator Mark Obenshain and Del. Todd Gilbert expressed concerns here, here, here, and here.

Solution? Find money in VDOT's budget (they need to be audited), and look into privatizing rest areas.

Contact Tim Kaine's office and tell him you do NOT want rest areas closed down: (804) 786-2211 or email or check website.

I called "Constituent Services" at the Governor's office (#4 on the menu) and expressed my concern to the young man who answered the phone. He didn't ask for any information and when I questioned whether he needed something because I felt he was not writing it down or taking it seriously, he hung up on me. Nice.

Update: Bob at The Journey has written about this issue, No Rest Areas for the Weary, and has some good thoughts. Check it out for more on closing of rest areas.

Update: Solution to closed Virginia rest areas


Dave said...

The Virginia rest stops should have been privatized years ago. Like in PA, let McDonalds, Burger King, etc. build there and they can keep up with the maintenance. But the Demorats in the General Assembly would never turn goverment property over to the free market system.

gxeremio said...

Dave, interstate roads are prohibited by law from having privatized rest stops, except those that existed before 1960.

I have to laugh that a small-government conservative is up in arms because the government isn't providing a place for you to potty instead of you getting off the interstate and going to a private establishment. What exactly do you think the essential functions of government are?

Anonymous said...

These are the least used rest stops in the state. Like, hardly ever used. Of course they should be closed.

Citizen Tom said...

Privatize the rest areas? What a concept! The fact is we already have truck stops. Do we need more?

The only real objection I have to this move is that VDOT plans to close so many rest stops at once. In addition, VDOT plans to mothball rather than sell the property. The whole scheme reeks of an attempt to pressure the public for a tax increase.

Admittedly, I sympathize with the truckers. More than once I have noticed a rest stop full of parked 18 wheelers. So with the sudden closure of so many rest stops I dread the possibility of sleepy truckers. Can you imagine a fully loaded 18 wheeler barreling down an interstate with no one at the wheel? If that happens, do the governor and the General Assembly truly believe they will escape blame?

Bob K. said...

I wrote some thoughts on this before: No Rest Areas for the Weary.

Existing law also dictates that tolls be retired on interstates when the original bonds are paid for. The Pennsylvania Turnpike keeps its tolls and service plazas because it was grandfathered in, true, but it is a great solution to a high maintenance route over rugged and isolated terrain.

The infamous Breezewood Interchange had to be built [or not built] the way it was to circumvent Federal regulations. It is a mess.

Federal regulations need to be changed to allow for privitization and other creative solutions.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Bob, I updated the post to include the link to your post. Good thoughts there, and I thank you for pointing it out.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...


Like, show me some facts.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Jeremy, in these economic times it may be necessary to think outside the box. Perhaps it's time for the government to address the issue of privatizing interstate rest areas in order to save them.

I find it laughable that you question the role of government and rest areas. What a waste of money to abandon/tear down 18 rest areas and one visitor center and for what? To make a point? To strong-arm the public into agreeing to more taxes because we're so "broke"?

This tactic was used by Mark Warner when he closed DMVs during his time as governor.

I still maintain this is a political move by the Democrats.

Lynn R. Mitchell said...

Citizen Tom, twenty years ago an 18-wheeler loaded with gravel with an asleep-at-the-wheel driver bore down on our Volvo station wagon as we traveled I-77 in South Carolina south of Charlotte.

My husband saw the truck gaining speed on the hill as it closed in on our bumper. As I turned around to look out the back window, all I saw was truck grill before it hit us.

Because my husband realized what was happening and had sped up, we were not knocked off the road but took a hard slam and sustained enough damage that the tailgate could not be opened. However, possibly by being a Volvo (built for safety), the back window did not break.

My husband is a truck driver who wrangles 18-wheelers. Those guys know the benefit of rest areas as do families with little ones and pets.

It all smacks of politics at a time when Tim Kaine is spending more and more time out of the state on DNC business.

Bob K. said...

Thanks for the mention and the link. Here's a Whole Collection of Essays [click to read] from City Journal on subjects like cutting agency budgets, etc.

VDOT and our part-time Governor could learn a few things reading New York's Future [click to read]. At this point anything less than creative solutions is just politics.

Dave said...


I think you entirely missed my point when you said "I have to laugh that a small-government conservative is up in arms because the government isn't providing a place for you to potty instead of you getting off the interstate and going to a private establishment. What exactly do you think the essential functions of government are?"

I do not think it is the reponsibility of the Government to provide me a rest area (potty stop) while I travel the interstates. That is why I said, the rest stops should be turned over to the private sector.

To answer your question, basically, the fundamentals of the Govenment is to provide defense for our country.

Also, thanks for the information concerning the 1960 Interstate law. I was unaware of this law.

Anonymous said...

I am a college student at UVA Wise down in the south western part of Virginia, and I am from right out side of Washington, DC. I have travelled back and forth from NoVa to Wise dozens of times over the course of the past few years, and I-81 is the longest stretch of the journey. I take it from where 66 meets up with 81 close to winchester all the way down to Abingdon. I must say that as a poor college student, i like to be able to stop at least once or twice at the rest stops on the long stretch of 81. Most of the closers seem to be on 81, and yes you see a large number of truckers on 81. I have almost been run off the road several times by trucker drivers falling asleep at the wheel while on 81, and with the closers of a large portion of 81s rest stops you can bet that there will be more recks, and more deaths. I have also made many a night drive down 81, because i am a night person, and NOTHING besides WaWas and Sheets are open at 3am, and those are few and far between, so night driving on 81 will be almost deadly with hardly any rest stops open and nothing that is really open late. Also i dont know if Mr Kaine took into account that the blue ridge/appalachians/ shenindoa rain a lot, and snow a lot during the winter, where are people to stop? - An Annoyed Virginian

Unknown said...

Funny- The Democrats wanted all the power - but the blew in the first few months of 2006 with their Senate & House Power - but still we didn't listen - so we voted in Obama with his thugs - now we take note - in a time when Economic Poverty is at the ALL TIME HIGHEST IN OUR COUNTRY's HISTORY - most will be traveling by vehicle for the holidays- and the rest areas are closed because they want to pay for the expansion of a large government - WAKE UP and Stand UP _ find the true conservatives and vote for them - Say No to Obama and his Thugs mess

And Kaine has probably been offered a nice cushy job with Obama - don't support em