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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.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 26, 2008; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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I was stopped at 3:45 at the bottom of the hill between Seminary and Duke on the HOV lanes of I-395. Three hours later, I had made it up almost to Duke Street. At 7:00 I saw two VDOT snow removal trucks making their way onto 395 from Duke St, presumably to join the efforts at Springfield. My question - where the hell were they for the previous three hours?

Posted by: L'enfant terrible | February 26, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse


I voted for Mr Kaine, but must say, the fact that he "claims" that VDOT has felt his wrath doesn't do one thing for me, or for the other thousands of NoVa taxpaying citizens whose lives were disrupted, not to say endangered, but the continued, criminally LAX behavior of VDOT.

One of my friends, who left work 3 hours early, got home 5 hours late: fortunately, her child care provider chose NOT to dock her the $1 (or more) per minute that they might have.

For everyone else not so lucky: to whom do we send the bills for reimbursement?

Posted by: Judy from Fairfax City | February 26, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

VDOT claims they learn, for a storm or two they're extra careful, then they "forget" what they've learned, pretreating again becomes "ineffective", wash, rinse, repeat. The incompetence of VDOT is really staggering. There's no point in complaining to VDOT or Gov. Kaine, nothing changes, no heads roll, VDOT slogan remains "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Posted by: SSDD | February 26, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Bob Marbourg is a hero. But why didn't the salt trucks listen to him? They are lazy, they just sit on the side of the road. When the man with the weather map in front of him and the telephone next to him says its time to start salting, why did they just continue to sit there? They should be fired I say.

Posted by: me myself and I | February 26, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I wonder when Kaine is going to wake up and recognize as "abysmal" his own actions with regard to Dulles Rail? Seriously, it totally smells like this guy's getting paid by Bechtel, doesn't it? Get a clue already, Kaine. If you want Virginia blue, you better realize that unless you do something to change this project, your party will be feeling the wrath of Northern Virginia voters in November. By the way, I voted for you. I'm now embarassed to say that.

Posted by: Lisa | February 27, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Kaine is abysmal.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

VDOT has about one third of the manpower that it did prior to the Mark Warner and Tim Kaine dynasty. Warner came to the throne with a personal vendetta for VDOT, and followed through on cutting the manpower levels to the bone. Manpower levels of 30% will never be able to keep roads maintained. Consider the true source of the problem. VDOT must have denied King Warner access to some areas for his $million cell towers!!

Posted by: Tom | February 28, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Gov. Kaine, feeling one's wrath means nothing if everyone still has their jobs and will remain @VDOT to screw up yet another time. Screwing up is the only thing that VDOT can do consistently.

Posted by: mvm | February 28, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Kaine doesn't get bothered until he's the one stuck in traffic.

Posted by: Bob | February 28, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

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