Virginia ranked slow to spend stimulus money on road projects

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Transportation just awarded the contract for major I-95 bridge repairs. But the U.S. House Committee on Transportation says Virginia has been the 2nd slowest state in the country to spend stimulus money on road repairs. Why the delay when the state needs both jobs and road improvements?

The Commonwealth Transportation Board just hired contractor Archer Western to rebuild 11 bridges along I-95 from Lombardy Street in Richmond to Upham Brook in Henrico. The 4-year, $68 million project is expected to boost the local economy.

"Chmura Economics and Analytics has estimated about $166 million in direct impact to the local economy as a result of this project, and some tax revenue benefits, as well as some job creation, about 150 jobs per year," said VDOT's Tom Hawthorne.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure says Virginia is the second slowest state in the country to put stimulus money to work on road projects.

"Missouri had shovels in the ground within an hour of the President signing the bill. Other states were very fast with their investments," said Committee spokesman Jim Berard.

Stimulus money was given to states to create jobs through road projects. States can lose any money not designated by September 30. NBC12 asked Berard whether Virginia's low ranking raises concerns about how fast the state is creating jobs through road projects.

"That is a decision or conclusion that has to be reached on the state level or by the people of the state of Virginia," answered Berard.

But VDOT is quick to explain why it's process has moved slower than other states.

"It's because of the process we went through up front to identify projects and to go through a public involvement process, where then-Governor Kaine actually solicited public input to decide what projects would move forward," said VDOT Chief of Communications Jeff Caldwell.

Caldwell says VDOT will award all stimulus-funded contracts by the September 30 deadline and won't lose any of the money.

"Virginia has not missed any of the deadlines and our plan is in place to make sure all of our funding is used within the timelines prescribed by the legislation," said Caldwell.

The I-95 bridge repairs are expected to begin this fall and take four years to complete. VDOT officials say repairs will begin underneath bridges first, then sections of the bridge will be replaced during overnight, low-traffic hours

Other current, significant local VDOT projects include repairs to I-64 and I-295. You can track the progress of all VDOT projects through this page on the VDOT website.

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