Less Rest For Highway Travelers in Virginia
The closing of 18 highway rest areas in the commonwealth starts tonight. Drivers will see orange barrels at the entrance and exit ramps to these former facilities.
In Northern Virginia, that means no more stopping at the Dale City areas on Interstate 95. The Manassas rest area on I-66 eastbound also is closing tonight. The one on the westbound side, which also is a Welcome Center for tourists, gets a temporary reprieve, but only to serve out the summer vacation season. That area will close on Sept. 16.
The rest areas at Dale city for truckers will remain open. The Virginia Department of Transportation says they are heavily used and there are few alternatives for truckers in the area.
This is all part of a state plan to address VDOT's budget shortfall. It's probably the aspect of the budget cutting plan that has gotten the most attention, but there's also this: Reductions over the next six years of $2 billion to the construction program, $391 million to administrative and support programs, and a total of $348 million in the maintenance and operations program. The staff cuts amount to 1,000 full-time employees and 450 part-time employees.
That's a lot of road-making and maintaining. But the rest stop issue is so easy to understand, and so visible. The VDOT announcement sounds like they're selling the state for scrap: People already in rest areas tonight will be allowed to remain until they finish their rest. Once rest areas are clear of motorists, crews will block the exit ramps. VDOT will also change Interstate signs to indicate that the rest areas are closed and will adjust signs that guide motorists to the next available facility. (See a map here.) Electronic message signs will be used to warn motorists the areas are closed.
Crews will then begin disconnecting utilities, removing equipment, supplies and fixtures that can be reused in the 23 facilities that will remain open. They will mothball the closed facilities. Eventually, workers will install large metal gates across entrance and exit ramps.
July 20, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories: Driving , highways | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, VDOT, Virginia rest areas, interstates, summer travel
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