- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Hoping to avoid repeating mistakes made in projects such as the Mixing Bowl, Gov. Mark Warner signed legislation yesterday requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation to be more accountable.
Mr. Warner signed the legislation at a VDOT site near the massive interstate interchange in Springfield, which is expected to cost double the initial estimate.
Under the new law, VDOT will be required to adopt a detailed financial plan for all projects over $100 million, including a complete cost estimate for all major elements of the project. The plan would identify funding sources for each year of the project and set a project schedule.
"You may ask 'Wasn't that a requirement in the past?' No, it wasn't," Mr. Warner said. He said the legislation is based on the principle that "you cannot buy what you can't afford."
Mr. Warner said in a difficult budget year it is important to be better stewards of tax dollars.
The governor said he inherited a transportation department that was overly political and could not account for spending on some of its projects. For example, he said there was no audit in four years on the Route 58 project across southern Virginia.
The Mixing Bowl price tag is now more than $700 million, double the original budget of $350 million. The overrun is due in part to legal settlements with contractors who have filed complaints against VDOT.
The Mixing Bowl connects Interstates 95, 395 and 495, about 17 miles south of Washington. About 430,000 vehicles pass through daily.
A state senator who sponsored the new legislation said she experienced problems in the past finding out how the project was going both fiscally and time-wise. She said contractors were confused about why they were awarded contracts and then told not to continue the work.
"These reforms we've put in place will make VDOT the agency we knew it could be," said Sen. Linda "Toddy" Puller, Fairfax Democrat.
VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet thanked the governor and General Assembly for the legislation, saying VDOT will now "be an agency that reports its progress or lack of it."

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