DOT tightening belt in Virginia

First Posted: 2/23/2009

Staff Report

RICHMOND, Va. The Virginia welcome center on Interstate 77 at Lambsburg is expected to remain open after a round of state Department of Transportation budget cuts.
However, the Hillsville Residency Office of the Virginia DOT might not be as lucky, based on cost-cutting plans unveiled recently in Richmond.
The transportation agency is looking to reduce staffing and make other cuts in light of an expected $2.6 billion shortfall in funding over the next six years. Due to the budget crunch, the DOT is having to focus its resources on maintenance, operations and emergency-response efforts, considered its core services and commitments.
Tough decisions will be made affecting personnel, services and construction, the Virginia agency says. It plans to slash overall staffing levels by about 1,500 people during the next 18 months, from its present labor force of around 9,000. Some 450 hourly employees are to be laid off in March as a first step.
In the construction area, 808 new road projects targeted for the next six years statewide have either been eliminated or delayed, for a $2 billion savings.
Also as part of the downsizing, officials have proposed closing several rest areas along Interstate 81, although the I-77 welcome center in southern Carroll County at the North Carolina line will be left intact.
Truckers are opposing closing the rest stops, pointing out that few facilities exist along interstates for them to sleep and that safety will be compromised due to more tired drivers being on the road.
Meanwhile, a second phase of staffing changes and organizational restructuring calls for cutting personnel of DOT field operations and closing at least 15 residency offices, including the one now serving Carroll County. A DOT residency administrator is stationed at that office, who oversees road issues in both Carroll and Floyd counties.
The exact impact on the staff now working in Carroll has not been determined, according to the DOT.
If the Hillsville office is closed, the Martinsville Residency Office about 60 miles away would oversee operations in Carroll.
Other areas eyed for cuts among Virginia Department of Transportation programs and services include interstate maintenance services, vegetation management and safety service patrols.

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