Virginia began the 20th century with no highway network, but rather with only a disjointed assortment of deeply rutted county roads. In 2006, a century after the State Highway Commission was established, the commonwealth could recount epic steps of progress in building transportation facilities to move millions of people and products every day. Well-engineered highways, smooth pavements, strong bridges and sophisticated traffic management systems were positioned on 57,866 miles of state-maintained roadways.
That expanding transportation infrastructure has contributed to the commonwealth’s economic development and continuing prosperity throughout the decades, as well as to the safety and convenience of its citizens. To preserve that prosperous condition in the new century, continual diligence, innovation and foresight will be required.
Tire maintenance: 3 steps to take in spring
In many parts of the country, winter can take a toll on your car’s tires. Here are three tire maintenance tasks you should perform every spring
1. Change your tires
Winter tires perform poorly on hot, dry roads. If you used them over the last few months, now’s the time to switch back to all-season or summer tires.
2. Check the pressure
Cold air causes the pressure in your tires to decrease, deflating them and making them unsafe to drive on when the weather is warmer. Check the owner’s manual to verify the exact pressure range that’s best for your tires and inflate them accordingly.
3. Inspect the tread
No matter what type of tires you use, it’s their tread that provides the necessary traction to stop your car from slipping and sliding in wet and icy conditions. Many tires have tread wear indicators inside the grooves. If your indicators are flush with the grooves, the tires are no longer safe to drive on.
Finally, visually inspect your tires. If you notice uneven wear, cuts, bulges or other irregularities, it may be time to replace them.
A history of roads in Virginia: Fundamental questions remain to be answered
The larger questions remained, however. How would multimodalism be incorporated into transportation networks? How would those networks serve a continually expanding global economy? Should changes in those networks redistribute populations and relocate business and residential centers? Would motorists’ love of the open road continue to be paramount in the American psychology? Or would transportation be gradually reinvented?
A history of roads in Virginia: Finding funds for the infrastructure
Funding for transportation was a dilemma for most states. On the one hand, construction and maintenance of infrastructure was increasingly expensive; on the other, citizens were agitated by the tax load already levied on them. Added to that was loss of revenue from the traditional tax on gasoline because of new fuel efficiencies and alternative fuels.
States asked whether transportation should be paid for as any other economic good or service — perhaps by mileage-based road-use charges. Toll roads were more often included in discussions of highway financing, and SAFETEA-LU provided tolling options for infrastructure improvements. Some states saw opportunities in privatization, selling some state transportation assets to private firms. Others were making good use of public-private arrangements.
Virginia worked diligently to involve private entities, including foreign investors, in transportation projects through its Public-Private Transportation Act. In 2005, an Australian bank acquired the Dulles Greenway in Northern Virginia, and in 2006, an Australian firm leased the Pocahontas Parkway south of Richmond for 99 years. Outsourcing of transportation services and operations continued to be a guiding principle, as it did across the nation.
A history of roads in Virginia: Seeking direction at the national level
At the national level, politicians and experts were debating the future direction of transportation policy. For almost four decades, it had been unified by a grand vision, the construction of the interstate highway system. As the last piece of that system was completed and that vision was realized, federal policy no longer had a riveting theme.
Not only that, ear-marking federal funds for particular state and local projects was diffusing the focus at the national level, as the 2005 federal transportation act demonstrated. The act, called SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) authorized spending on an unprecedented number of congressionally designated projects. However, it did focus strongly on safety, a new core program in the federal legislation. Under it, states were required to develop a strategic highway safety plan with goals for reducing highway
fatalities and injuries. Virginia was already taking steps in that direction by establishing “Highway Safety Corridors” on high-crash stretches of interstate. In these corridors, state police enforced speed limits more aggressively and higher fines were imposed.
Planners also were asking complicated questions presented by transportation progress in recent decades, such as: How much did the interstate contribute to the break-up of communities? Do transportation projects create sprawl? Should population density of communities be created or changed to support public transit?
Practical problems emerged. An aging population continued to want mobility, in contrast to earlier generations of elderly; and the transportation system needed modification for their continued use. Global trade was expected to double in 20 years, with growing impact on the transportation network—especially in states like Virginia where traffic to major East Coast ports crowds streets and highways.
A history of roads in Virginia: Outsourcing and privatization become key orientations
When Gregory A. Whirley, VDOT inspector general, was named acting transportation commissioner in 2005, he noted the dramatic improvements VDOT and its contracting firms had made in delivering projects on time and within budget. In 2001, only 20 percent of construction projects were finished on time, but by 2006, 83 percent were. Similarly at the turn of the century, 51 percent of the contracts were built within budget, but by 2006 that figure rose to almost 88 percent. Despite this improvement, the commissioner advised employees that they were now competing with the public sector, which might want to perform more of the department’s traditional functions.
The 2006 General Assembly reinforced that possibility by requiring the transportation commissioner to report annually on VDOT’s efforts to outsource, privatize and downsize. This was in the context of the legislators’ debate about how to finance the transportation system in the long term. Projections showed that by 2018, no state funds would be available for construction as the growing maintenance costs of an aging highway system siphoned off construction funds. The debate over new taxes for transportation continued throughout the spring of 2006, delaying approval of a new state budget by a record number of days.
Chipped windshields: repair or replace?
If your windshield gets chipped, it’s important to fix it right away. Chips and cracks rarely stay small and can compromise the strength of your windshield, thereby limiting the protection provided in the event of an accident. Besides, if you deal with the problem promptly, you can often forgo a replacement in favor of a repair. Here’s what you should know.
When is repair possible?
A professional can usually repair a chipped windshield if the following five conditions are met:
1. The chip’s no larger than an inch in diameter.
2. There’s at least a 1.5-inch gap between the point of impact and the edge of the windshield.
3. The chip isn’t within the driver’s field of vision.
4. There are no more than two or three chips to repair.
5. Only the outer layer of glass is damaged.
If these five conditions don’t apply, then chances are you’ll need to replace your windshield. And you’ll want to have this done as soon as possible, as it’s a matter of your safety.
Did you know?
Depending on the specifics of your insurance plan, you may be reimbursed for the costs of your windshield repair. Moreover, the repair shouldn’t affect your premiums or insurance record. Check with your provider to be sure.