Governor Announces Plan to Reduce Cost of Reopening Rest Areas

15 Nov 2010 10:11 AM | Anonymous

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell announced today a comprehensive plan to reduce the costs associated with reopening Virginia’s previously closed rest areas and raise new revenues in the process.

Commenting on his cost-saving strategy, Governor McDonnell noted, “With more than 30 million visitors passing through these rest areas each year, they are critical assets of the Commonwealth for safety, economic development and tourism. Within 10 days of taking office, I directed the Virginia Department of Transportation to reopen all 19 rest areas and welcome centers that were closed in July 2009.  As I promised during the campaign, this was accomplished by April 15th, and work is now under way to implement long-term solutions that will make running these rest areas more cost effective. The goal of this initiative is to off-set the costs of reopening the 19 safety rest areas, thus saving more of our taxpayer’s hard earned dollars.”

The Governor is directing the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to work in partnership with other agencies, localities, and interstate business communities to cut costs and to raise new revenues using these four strategies:

1. Contracted Maintenance Cost Reductions
Reduce contracting costs at 38 rest areas and welcome centers where existing maintenance and operations contracts are scheduled to expire in December 2010 by working with potential contractors to address rest area needs while cutting the costs of maintenance activities

2. Enhanced Sponsorship Program
Bundle interstate recognition signage, interior advertising space and vending to attract private sponsors for the existing rest areas and welcome centers.

3. Regional Tourism and Welcome Center Partnership
Use transportation enhancement grants to further tourism outreach through the establishment of partnerships between tourism entities along Virginia’s interstates. These grants will be used to develop scenic/historic highway programs such as locating commercial regional tourist/welcome centers at interchanges

4. Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center Innovation Research Program
In this year’s session, the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution No. 126,  requesting that the Virginia Transportation Research Council study alternatives to the public funding and operation of all or portions of the Commonwealth's interstate safety rest areas. The study will distinguish funding options that are possible within current state and federal law governing interstate highways in Virginia from those options that would become viable if specific sections of federal code were amended. This research is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 30, 2010 with the goal of recommending viable funding innovations to the safety rest area program.

As VDOT begins implementing these initiatives, it will continue to work with both the public and private sector to develop other ideas to generate new revenues and create greater efficiencies throughout the program.

Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton added, “Initiating these strategies now is critical to begin offsetting program costs as soon as possible.  We continue to look forward to the results of the legislative study currently being carried out by the Virginia Transportation Research Council, and VDOT welcomes any additional ideas from the public and the private sectors to provide these critical customer services more efficiently.”

VDOT will schedule meetings with the appropriate federal, state and local officials, as well as the private sector, in the next few months to further explore these three initiatives. Governor McDonnell has set VDOT’s goal of implementing the new contracts and sponsorship strategies before the end of 2010 and making the tourism partnership and any other proposals available in 2011.

Learn more about Virginia Rest Areas

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