VDOT budget facing $84 million ax

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 19, 2009

The cash-strapped Virginia Department of Transportation on Wednesday proposed slashing an additional $84 million from its budget this fiscal year, by doing less paving, pushing old equipment for another year and curtailing maintenance of its facilities.

In the proposal submitted to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, no layoffs are planned beyond the 1,000 already announced.

The $84 million cut for the fiscal year that ends July 1 is the latest step in efforts to close a $4.6 billion shortfall projected over six years.

The agency asked the board to approve a second proposal that addresses the longer-term revenue gap, recommending cuts of $851.5 million over six years.

This year Richmond approved a $3.5 billion transportation budget, a fractional increase over 2009. VDOT accountants realized almost immediately that plunging revenue would not support that. So the agency began cutting services and laying off employees during the summer.

The cuts proposed Wednesday, for this and the next six years, will require transportation board approval next month after a Dec. 1 public hearing in Richmond. After the board acts, VDOT will finalize plans for reducing spending.

"We're cutting back on our paving projects," VDOT spokesman Jeff Caldwell said, listing the targeted areas. "We're not buying any new trucks or new tools. We're not maintaining facilities unless there's a critical need, like the roof blows off."

The agency also plans to trim administrative costs this year, reduce payments to localities that maintain their own roads and net payroll savings when the second round of layoffs takes place.

Roadway maintenance ($277 million), highway construction ($255 million), administrative services ($115.2 million) and mass transit ($46.3 million) are among the areas slated for major cuts to achieve the $851.5 million in savings.

"We have worked diligently to keep projects on track that support our main priority areas, but this program represents continued reduction in our ability to build and maintain secondary and urban highways," Secretary of Transportation Pierce R. Homer said in a statement to the board.

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