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 RetreatThe Waynesboro News Virginian reminded of past inquiries into VDOT's accountability:
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
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.Why didn't Tim Kaine tell VDOT to cut pork before cutting services that would affect the public?
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.
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