- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 7, 2002

Gov. Mark R. Warner announced plans yesterday to reform Virginia's beleaguered Department of Transportation, calling for greater accountability and more financial management.
"We want to make sure that the lessons learned from the lack of financial management are not forgotten, to make sure the mistakes of the Springfield Mixing Bowl and other overbudget projects are never repeated," Mr. Warner said.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, was scheduled to make the announcement Thursday in Springfield, but the event was rescheduled and moved to Richmond because of the snowstorm.
The plans will be part of Mr. Warner's legislative agenda, which he will propose to the General Assembly when it reconvenes next month.
In calling for greater accountability, Mr. Warner wants VDOT to submit detailed financial plans for projects that are estimated at more than $100 million. These plans are to include a concise purpose for the plan as well as a complete list of funding for the project from start to finish.
Mr. Warner wants greater accountability at the Commonwealth Transportation Board as well. Under his proposals, the CTB, along with VDOT, would adopt an updated six-year plan by July 1 of each year. Both agencies also would be required to use the most recent independent transportation trust-fund and general-fund revenues.
"I am glad that he is acknowledging you can develop a stronger transportation program without raising taxes," Speaker-designate William Howell, Stafford Republican, said.
VDOT has been plagued in recent years with overruns and mismanagement. Philip Shucet, the agency's commissioner since April, said these improvements will go a long way.
"If these improvements had been in place before now, VDOT would be a very accountable agency. Improvements like this are what it takes. They are plans of action and will ensure we meet all our deadlines," he said.
Of particular interest to Northern Virginia would be development of a congestion-relief program for areas of the state that are the most traveled. Already, Mr. Warner has directed Mr. Shucet, Secretary of Transportation Whittington W. Clement and others to consult with local governments and civic organizations to develop plans for Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
This directive, which does not need legislative approval, would serve as a Band-Aid until more resources were available. The panel is required to submit 10 proposals that would ease gridlock. Each proposal must cost less than $2 million and be completed within 12 months.
"They will be quick fixes that will improve the flow of traffic at minimal cost," Mr. Clement said.
Mr. Shucet suggested that ideas such as lane expansion, improvements in the timing of traffic lights and more commuter parking would be top priorities of the program.
"We are not talking about new roads," he said. "We are talking about implementing changes through technology in a very localized manner."


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