- The Washington Times - Monday, June 16, 2003

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen 10 branches, restore Wednesday operations and extend Thursday service hours at all local branches next week.

On June 25, DMV branches across the state will reopen their doors and extend service hours on Thursdays, with some branches opening at 8 a.m. The branches now open at 10 a.m. Also, 10 of the 12 branches that were closed indefinitely last fall will reopen.

“We expect that restoring Wednesday hours will improve customers’ wait time,” said Pam Goheen, deputy director of communications for the DMV. “And those people who can take advantage of alternative service methods — such as the self-service kiosks, the Internet and the telephone — will see a significant decrease in wait times.”

In October DMV branches across the state laid off more than 100 employees and reduced their office hours, including eliminating service on Wednesdays, as a result of Gov. Mark Warner’s budget cuts. Twelve branch offices also closed their doors indefinitely.The cuts were criticized statewide, and motorists complained of long waits, sometimes of four hours or more.

In his State of the Commonwealth address in January, Mr. Warner, a Democrat, pledged to reopen the DMV branches. During the General Assembly session in the winter, lawmakers passed a budget that set aside an estimated $17 million to restore Wednesday hours and extend Thursday hours. Mr. Warner signed the budget.

Even though the offices will be open for longer hours, they will not operate at full service because not all the laid-off employees have been rehired. Miss Goheen would not speculate about when those employees would be rehired.

“Unfortunately, we are not fully staffed, so some customers might have to wait longer than they would like,” she said.

DMV officials are looking for a place to reopen the branch that used to be in the Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax County. Another branch, which used to be located at the Northern Virginia Dealer Center in Alexandria, has merged its operations with the Franconia branch.

Drivers can conduct many of their transactions on the Internet (www.dmvnow.com), an automated-teller line (888/337-4782) or the self-service kiosks that are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week outside the DMV branch offices. These transactions include driver’s license and vehicle-registration renewals, records requests, address changes and special-plate orders.

“You can plug the information in and you will get your requested product within a week, and you don’t have to worry about coming to the DMV and standing in line,” Miss Goheen said.

However, some services still require drivers to go to the DMV. Those services include reinstatement of driver’s licenses and obtaining a commercial driver’s license.

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