Virginia responds to stimulus criticism

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia fires back in a war of words over stimulus spending. A federal committee that oversees road construction says the commonwealth is moving "too slow". The chairman of this committee says Virginia is among the worst performers when it comes to spending stimulus money on highway projects. But the commonwealth found a very polite way of telling the feds, to back off.

In a scathing letter, the Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure says Virginia ranks last, and needs to refocus its efforts to spend stimulus money on highway construction.

"We were, a bit surprised by the letter in that we have made every deadline that has been put forward," said VDOT Chief of Communications Jeff Caldwell.

The letter implies that Virginia is not spending stimulus money fast enough, thereby costing the commonwealth much needed jobs. For example, the committee says only 16.5% of Virginia's funds are in use, compared to the national average of nearly 43%. Governor Tim Kaine quickly disputed the criticism.

"What the governor has said is there's a choice between doing things fast and doing things best. And frankly, in Virginia, we're sticking to doing things best," said Linda Tran, Communication's Director for Governor Tim Kaine.

In his own letter, Kaine said Virginia does not keep a wish list of projects that easily get done. Every construction effort goes through a time-consuming public process.

"We do not have projects in there that are promised that we don't have funding to move forward with. And  we do not develop projects and then wait until funding arrives and shuffle that money to decide which project  moves forward," said Caldwell.

Kaine's letter said Virginia continues to make progress, including the 93 projects approved at a cost of $389 million dollars. Additional projects will be awarded later this month, but there are no immediate plans to change how fast the work gets underway.

The governor cited another list, this one from the Department of Transportation, which said Virginia ranked in the middle of states in terms of stimulus spending.

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