The small, fluorescent orange rescue trucks that aid stranded motorists along Interstate Rte. 395 and the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway will be abolished June 1 as part of budget cuts ordered by Virginia Highway Commissioner Harold King.
"These are very, very tight times financially and there's no aspect of our operations that's not being looked at very carefully," said Al Coates, spokesman for the highway department, one of Virginia's largest state agencies.
Coates said that abolition of the eight-year-old Safety Service Patrol, which operated around-the-clock, will mean an annual savings of $370,000. It will also mean that the more than 500 motorists assisted each month by the 12-member crew must seek help elsewhere.
"Nothing will replace this, but in the past year the Virginia State Police have increased patrols and their cars are all now equipped with citizens band radios, which wasn't the case when the patrol started," Coates said. "Also, a lot more motorists now have CBs and we think that will help."
The 12-member crew and four trucks will be assigned to the department's Fairfax substation.
In an attempt to offset a projected $15 million deficit this year, which Coates attributed to inflation, the highway department has made other budget cuts, among them reduced mowing of grassy median strips.
The department, which has a total budget of $80 million, has recently notified 125 of the agency's 11,400 employes that they will lose their jobs July 1. The department is also reviewing all construction projects on the 52,000 miles of state roads it oversees.