- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) dipped into two funds, including an off-limits one, to pay for maintenance this year, according to a state report.
VDOT officials borrowed $38 million from the state's priority transportation trust fund and $31 million from the department's construction funds, according to a state Senate Finance Committee report.
The department's road-building schedule will be affected unless VDOT cuts its administrative budget, delays road projects or postpones maintenance, state Senate officials said.
The trust fund is restricted, which means its use must be approved by the General Assembly, said John Bennett, staff director of the Senate Finance Committee.
When VDOT officials were questioned about the use of the fund, Mr. Bennett said, they replaced the loan from the trust fund with money from the construction fund.
Transportation officials said VDOT's actions were justified because its maintenance fund had unusual demands this year, including flooding in Southwest Virginia and the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon in Arlington.
Transportation Secretary Shirley Ybarra told the Senate committee in a letter that the federal government has said it will reimburse VDOT for those repairs.
VDOT officials believe they will be able to repay the loan because of a revenue growth estimate of 3.5 percent and continue with road projects.
But Mr. Bennett remains skeptical.
"VDOT based its ability to repay on revenue estimates that are lower than what they had forecast early this year," he told the Fairfax Journal.
"They are behind their forecasted revenue estimate. Consequently, their inability to pay will have a ripple effect on the construction schedule."
Furthermore, Mr. Bennett said, VDOT still has not received $70 million that was frozen during the General Assembly's budget impasse last year.
VDOT officials already have allocated that money, he said.


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