Motorists traveling through Virginia take note: It's time to get used to crossing your legs just a wee bit tighter on long trips through the Old Dominion as the Virginia Department of Transportation has closed nearly half of all its interstate rest areas. The cited reason? Budgetary shortfalls... what else?
According to VDOT, the closure of these 18 rest areas will save $9 million per year and will be joined by delayed construction projects and a slew of laid off workers. Virginia politicians have apparently been arguing the issue for months and a suitable compromise has yet to be reached.
In addition to the obvious loss of restroom choices, critics argue that the shuttering of rest stops may have a negative impact on the safety of travelers as weary drivers and tired truckers will have far fewer places to stop for some shuteye or to get a quick coffee. With more and more states facing severe budget shortfalls, could your state be next? Click past the break for a press release and a full list of closed VA rest areas. Thanks for the tip, Robin!
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REST AREA CLOSURES TO BEGIN TONIGHT
Map and list of rest areas and welcome centers
RICHMOND - The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will close 18 rest areas around the commonwealth overnight tonight as crews implement planned cost-savings reductions.
In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) finalized plans to scale-back the number of rest areas VDOT maintains and operates from 42 to 23 as the agency grapples with a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall.
Eighteen of those are slated to close in the early morning hours of July 21. The final rest area to close, the Interstate 66 West Manassas Welcome Center will remain open through mid-September.
VDOT crews will use orange barrels and cones to block the entrance ramps of rest areas overnight tonight. Those who are already in rest areas 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.
Electronic message signs will be used to give motorists advanced warning of the rest areas that 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, and commence mothballing the closed facilities.
It will take several weeks to permanently close the buildings and secure them for their long-term closure. Crews will install large metal gates across entrance and exit ramps as each facility is fully decommissioned.
The 18 rest areas slated to close include:
* I-81 North Rural Retreat
* 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
VDOT will operate the I-66 West Manassas Welcome Center through the summer travel season, since it was the only welcome center impacted by these closures.
VDOT will close the I-66 Welcome Center on Sept. 16, following the busy summer travel season.
Truck Parking Changes
In an effort to mitigate the impacts of these facility closings on trucks, VDOT will implement changes to its rest area truck parking restrictions on July 21.
The agency will remove a number of no parking signs at the remaining 23 rest areas and welcome centers to provide more than 225 legal truck parking spaces.
This will offset the total number of truck parking spaces lost at the closed facilities. VDOT will also remove signs that had restricted vehicles to two-hour parking limits.
Truck drivers will now be able to get their mandated 10-hours of rest in Virginia's rest areas.
New truck parking rules only limit parking for an entire overnight period. This means that trucks arriving in a rest area before sundown must leave the site prior to sunrise the following day. T
hose trucks arriving during the night or early morning hours must leave the site prior to sunrise the following full day.
VDOT Response to Transportation Revenue Shortfall
VDOT recommended in February a series of reductions to address a $2.6 billion revenue shortfall. These include reductions over the next six years of $2 billion to the construction program, $391 million to administrative and support programs), and $348 million in reductions to the maintenance and operations program.
VDOT will also reduce staffing by 1,000 full-time employees and 450 part-time employees as it seeks to reduce costs and address business changes.
The department collected feedback during 11 public meetings in March and early April. It then proposed final recommendations to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) after considering public input and completing additional analysis.
The CTB finalized these decisions and adopted VDOT's new $3.7 billion budget June 18. This triggered implementation of VDOT's service cuts, including the rest area closures.
A map of the affected rest areas is available at http://www.virginiadot.org/news/resources/Statewide/19_SRAWC_Closures.pdf.
To learn more detail about VDOT's service reductions, visit http://www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/default.asp#blueprint