When you gotta go, you gotta go. And now, thanks to Gov. Robert McDonnell’s decision last week to reopen 19 interstate highway rest stops, Virginia’s travelers won’t have to hold it.
“The governor promised and he delivered,” said Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill.
Outgoing Gov. Timothy Kaine originally closed the rest stops to save money. McDonnell asked the Commonwealth Transportation Board to reverse its decision four days after he took office. The vote was unanimous to reopen the rest stops, some reopening as early as next month.
“I think shutting them down was shortsighted,” said Sen. Robert Hurt, R-Chatham. “Having them is important for the security and safety of the Commonwealth.”
Connie Sorrell, the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s director of system operations, said the board will start working with the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Health, the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, which helps with the vending machines, and the Virginia State Police.
“We’ll be going through a process of restarting utilities and checking wastewater treatment plant systems and other systems to make sure they’re in working order,” Sorrell said.
Sorrell said the rest stops would reopen in phases as they become ready for use. She said the first group of four rest stops will reopen on Interstate 81 by Feb. 17. The second group of eight will reopen by March 17 and will include two in Brunswick County.
The last seven will reopen by April 15, including two on I-85 in Brunswick County. One of the rest stops in Manassas County also includes a small tourism center.
Now that the decision has been made, the board is discussing how to make the move affordable.
“We’re looking at a number of options but there haven’t been any final decisions made about that so I’m not prepared to say yet what other things we can do to reduce costs but we’re looking into a variety of options,” Sorrell said.
Hurt said: “Tourism is important and we want guests to be comfortable and we want them to come back. There is so much history here in Virginia and with people driving more and more, I think these rest stops are so important.”