Kaine: Ice Storm Response "Abysmal"
"VDOT has felt my wrath," Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said on WTOP radio this morning in response to a question about the Primary Day ice storm.
He said the Virginia Department of Transportation is conducting "an intensive evaluation" of that nightmare afternoon and evening when commuters were stuck as long as seven hours, most notably on the 50 bridges and ramps that make up the Springfield Interchange. The report will be "transparent and open to the public," Kaine said.
"My VDOT did an abysmal job dealing with that weather on Primary Day, he told the radio audience on his monthly "Ask the Governor" show.
The station played a recording of traffic reporter Bob Marbourg announcing, "This is a wakeup call to everybody out there in a salt truck. ... Across the region, we are hearing from callers that the bridge decks are freezing up." That was at about 3 p.m. on Feb. 12.
But it was too late for VDOT, paying attention to forecasts indicating that the freezing rain would pass around its area. The roads froze, there were accidents, and the VDOT trucks got stuck in the same traffic jam as commuters, many of whom had heard the forecasts and left work early in hope of beating the bad weather and getting to the polls.
A side light of that day's traffic problem is that Virginia's General Assembly is considering a bill that would make it easier for the state Board of Elections to extend the normal polls closing hour of 7 p.m.
Kaine noted that the rebuilt Springfield Interchange is a complex system of highways, bridges and ramps that highway crews still are getting used to. The rebuilding project was completed last summer and the new network had not faced this sort of storm.
VDOT is not using the newness of the interchange as an excuse, and has pledged not to let this happen again. On two occasions last week, road-treating equipment was moved into position at the interchange well before any precipitation fell.
On other transportation issues:
-- Kaine has by no means given up on the Dulles rail project. While he remains deeply committed to winning federal financing to cover a quarter of the project's first phase through Tysons, he is not talking about abandoning the rail project if the feds back out.
-- He says he will sign the legislative measure repealing the abuser fees when it reaches his desk, because Virginians have rejected the law passed last year, but he's still looking for the General Assembly to give him a way of financing the costs of highway maintenance.
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