Greg Marrow | Transportation fix

Recently there has been much discussion, which is gathering momentum, to privatize the 41 rest areas along the 325 miles of I-81 in an effort to save the Virginia Department of Transportation about $12 million. While this may sound appealing in the short term, it will do little, if anything, to solve the much larger problem of the failure to fund VDOT overall.

Our Valley representation in Richmond had consistently fought against any viable compromise to finding a solution to our transportation crisis. As a result of this failure in Richmond, VDOT has been forced to take unprecedented steps to fill the multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. The extra $12 million will not change the fact that Virginia needs at least $1 billion per year to sustain its maintenance and construction programs. Nor will it help offset the estimated $3 billion price tag for fixing out 1,800 bridges and culverts deemed “structurally deficient.” And most importantly for Valley residents, privatizing the rest areas will do nothing to curb the estimated 44 percent reduction in funding for the maintenance of secondary roads that VDOT is considering.

Once again, our attention is being diverted away from the big picture by people who have not demonstrated an interest in resolving the many issues facing VDOT and I-81. Whether the rest areas are privatized or not, the fact remains that Virginia has the third-largest state-maintained highway system in the U.S., and traffic on I-81 has doubled over the past decade which has led to I-81 being the deadliest expanse of highway in Virginia.

As the Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in the 25th District, I have no intention of evading the responsibilities and hard decisionmaking that needs to be done to solve this crisis. I will continue to hold discussion groups and meetings with concerned groups and individuals in order to come up with practical solutions to this serious problem. I will also work with our U.S. senators and congressmen in Washington to pursue a federal waiver to initiate the possibility of rest area privatization. While $12 million from privatization is a token first step, it is critical that we aggressively address the much larger issues of funding a transportation bill and ensuring that our voices in Richmond are heard.

 

– Greg Marrow is a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in the 25th House of Delegates District.

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