Budget woes cut VDoT’s snow capability

A rare site on many county roads this weekend

UPDATE (Monday, Dec. 21, 2009): The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDoT) admitted today it fell short of its goal of having all roads in their coverage area scraped at least once within 48 hours of a snow storm.

“We didn’t make it,” said Jason Bond of VDoT.

Residents of secondary roads throughout Southwestern Virginia already knew that.

Back in November, Bond pledged to have “all roads cleared within 48 hours” of any major snow storm, promising that the budget cuts that curtailed road maintenance and closed rest stops would not affect the department’s ability to keep the roads cleared.

But 48 hours after the worst snow storm in more than a decade dumped one to two feet of snow on Southwestern Virginia, many roads remain untouched by a snow plow and the agency says it may be 72 hours or more before any plow gets to them.

VDoT officials don’t want to admit it but the budget cuts have depleted their workforce and the closing of maintenance shops earlier this year have left many trucks awaiting repair when they could have been on the highway.

A rare site on many county roads this weekend

“Look, we’re down in manpower and we’re down on equipment,” one VDoT employee admitted privately Sunday. “We would have had trouble handling a normal snowfall.”

Indeed, a number a number of county residents complained to me last week when an earlier snow storm of just a few inches left parts of Virginia Rte. 8 in Floyd County untouched by plowing or chemicals hours after the white stuff failed.

VDoT officials were also caught flat-footed a week ago when freezing temperatures and wet roads from a weekend storm left unattended areas of black ice not only on secondary roads but also on U.S. 221 and Rte. 8. So many accidents resulted from that lack of maintenance that harried State Troopers couldn’t handle all the wrecks and told those without injuries to just “take care of it” themselves.

Floyd County’s public schools are closed both Monday and Tuesday this week because the roads aren’t clear and some may not be clear before another storm strikes on Wednesday night.

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