RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a relief to highway travelers, in more ways than one. Today, VDOT announced plans to re-open all of the interstate rest areas that were closed last summer.
At the urging of new Governor Bob McDonnell, VDOT's board decided to re-open the rest stops in stages, with all of them open to the public within three months.
"I believe it's a priority for tourism, public safety, and transportation. So, they're open to stay," said McDonnell.
In a unanimous vote, the Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to open the rest areas in stages. The first will come back in February, with all of them open for use by mid-April.
"This is great news for the motorists of Virginia, the safety of the motorists, for tourism in Virginia, and truckers in Virginia," said Martha Meade, AAA.
But in a budget year that calls for "billions" in cuts - where is McDonnell finding $7.5 million a year to pay for the rest areas?
"We've already met with the Department of Corrections where we believe we can get some help with non- violent inmate labor to do some of the work without impairing public safety in any way," said McDonnell.
The governor also expects companies to "adopt" a rest area, and vendors to re-negotiate their contracts. Specifics are still a work in progress. Relief -it seems- comes one "stop" at a time.
"Anybody who's driven in a car for more than a couple hours with small kids knows exactly what I'm talking about," McDonnell said.
According to a schedule made public this afternoon, the rest areas will re-open in stages, with the first group (Rural Retreat, Smyth, New Market, and Radford) opening on February 17, 2010. Rest areas in Dinwiddie, Mt. Sidney, Manassas, and Dale City will re-open on March 17, 2010. Rest areas in Troutville, Alberta, Goochland, and Ladysmith will re-open on April 15, 2010.