Can VDOT be trusted with more money from McDonnell’s transportation funding plan?

Posted at 8:32 PM, Feb 13, 2013

The contractor responsible for maintaining I-264 won’t comment on Friday’s pothole debacle, saying their contract with VDOT barred them from talking to the media, so local VDOT employees did the talking for them.

“TME has been doing the best they can trying to upkeep this section of roadway to get us through the winter,” said Lauren Hansen.

VDOT commissioner apologizes to drivers for I-264 potholes

The comments raised eyebrows around Hampton Roads, forcing those who have oversight to step in.

“Until you accept you have a problem, you will never fix it,” said Aubrey Layne, who is one of the Hampton Roads representatives on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Now that’s exactly what VDOT commissioner Greg Whirley has done, taking responsibility on the record from Richmond.

“I truly apologize to the citizens in the Hampton Roads area, and I pledge that we are going to work hard to rid these potholes,” said Whirley.

Whirley says he will also be meeting with TME because he does not feel, based on what he saw himself on I-264, that the company has been doing a good job maintaining the roadway.

The commissioner says in TME's contract, if there is a pothole 6 inches by 6 inches by 1 1/4 inch deep:  “That is to be fixed immediately. That’s the contract, that’s what’s supposed to be done. TME is also responsible for making certain that citizens can pass these roadways in a safe way,” said Whirley.

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NewsChannel 3 has yet to see this contract. It’s something we requested days ago under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

This is all going down as Governor McDonnell's transportation funding bill moved forward in the legislature and is now heading to a conference committee before final passage.

Local transportation board members are backing the plan, saying the lack of money for roads, combined with VDOT's mismanagement, led to the potholes on I-264.

“Every time we talk about raising taxes or tolls, it’s a big public outcry, and we don’t spend the money,” said Layne. “This road should have never gotten to this condition to begin with, and it’s not just related to poor performance by VDOT management.”

Depending on which version gets passed, by 2018, VDOT will get anywhere from $850 million to $1 billion in additional funding each year.

Many NewsChannel 3 viewers have asked after the pothole debacle if VDOT can be trusted with all this additional money.

“I assure you, this money will not be mishandled,” said Commissioner Whirley. “I am holding our contractors feet to the fire and I am holding my staff's feet to the fire, because we want to make certain we put our money to good use.”