Without a Budget, Virginia’s DOT Will Start Shutting Down Projects in May

Mon April 19, 2004 - National Edition

RICHMOND (AP) By the second week of May, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will start telling highway contractors to stop work on road projects if the General Assembly does not agree on a new state budget.

The $3.4-billion highway agency does not have the option of waiting till the end of the fiscal year June 30 to hit the brakes on its construction projects, officials said.

“Because of certain demobilization, environmental and safety requirements, we cannot wait until June 30 to tell a contractor that work must cease effective immediately,” state Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet said. “We have to be ahead of that curve.”

If the state budget crisis is unresolved, Shucet said, VDOT will soon develop a construction shutdown plan, then begin preparing shutdown orders by May 1.

“Neither VDOT nor the contracting industry want to go there,” Shucet said.

With more than 57,000 mi. of roads and more than 12,000 bridges, Virginia has the third largest state-maintained highway system in the country. Only North Carolina and Texas have larger road networks.

Virginia’s highway agency has under way 231 major road construction projects valued at almost $2.1 billion and 270 maintenance projects worth $308 million.

Shutting down highway work likely would add to the time and expense it eventually takes to finish the jobs.

“If we stop [contractors] from doing their work, it’s going to cost us,” said Malcolm T. Kerley, VDOT’s chief engineer. “You could expect that there would be both some kind of cost and time consideration that they’d ask for.”

“We’re expecting the General Assembly will have a budget,” Kerley said, “and we’re just doing some planning here.”