Media FAQ

Here are questions about the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) frequently asked by the media. For detailed information, contact the communications manager in your area.
 


question markQuestions

What is VDOT's organizational structure?

What is VDOT responsible for?

What tunnels and other facilites does VDOT own and maintain?

How is VDOT funded?

What is the Six-Year Improvement Program?

How are projects included in the SYIP?

What's the difference between the SYIP and the county Secondary Six-Year Plan?

Does VDOT own toll facilities?

What is a Public-Private project?

How is the public notified of a public hearing?

What's the difference between an interstate, primary and secondary road?

What's an HOV lane and a Express Lane?

Are their regulations or fines for overheight trucks trying to use Virginia's tunnels?

What is VDOT's process to clear snow?

How can I find out about the condition of bridges in my area?

How can I check the traffic counts for a road?

What is the Virginia Transportation Research Council?

Where's the best place for traveler information?

How do messages appear on changeable message signs?

Who picks up animal carcasses on state-maintained roads?

Who issues driver's licences?

How can I schedule an interview with the agency commissioner or the secretary of transportation?

Can we get access to VDOT's facilities to shoot video or photos?

Do you record images from traffic cameras?

How can my TV station pick up feeds of traffic cameras?
 


Answers

 What is VDOT's organizational structure?

VDOT's executive team is led by the agency's commissioner. He reports to Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.

The secretary is responsible for developing and implementing Virginia's transportation program, which includes policy and financial oversight for seven agencies. VDOT has approximately 7,500 employees.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) is a 17-member panel appointed by the governor. Their meetings are normally held on the third Thursday of the month.

The CTB approves the state transportation budget each year. The budget allocates funding for road maintenance, operations and construction projects.

The secretary is chairman of the CTB and VDOT's commissioner is the vice chairman. The director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation is an ex-officio member.

VDOT has nine districts. In the districts, there are 42 residencies and more than 200 local offices. VDOT's headquarters is in Richmond.

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 What is VDOT responsible for?

VDOT is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state's roads, bridges and tunnels.

The agency maintains a 58,000-mile network of highways and bridges, which is the third largest state-maintained highway system in the country, behind North Carolina and Texas.

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What tunnels and other facilities does VDOT own and maintain?

VDOT owns four underwater crossings in Hampton Roads. Two of them are leased to Elizabeth River Crossings:

  • The Midtown Tunnel
  • The Downtown Tunnel

VDOT also has:

  • The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel
  • The Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel

There are two mountain tunnels in Southwest Virginia through East River and Big Walker mountains.

VDOT is also responsible for the Jamestown-Scotland, Sunnybank and Merry Point ferries.

The agency maintains 41 safety rest areas, 12 welcome centers and more than 100 commuter parking lots.

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How is VDOT funded?

Unlike other Virginia state agencies, VDOT is not supported by general funds.

The primary state tax transportation revenue sources are:

  • The motor fuel tax
  • The motor vehicles sales and use tax
  • Motor license fees
  • The state sales and use tax

VDOT also receives federal revenue from the Federal Highway Highway Administration.

Other revenue sources:

  • Bond proceeds
  • A portion of tax on insurance premiums
  • Tolls

See http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/pr-financing.asp.

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 What is the Six-Year Improvement Program?

The program, referred to as the SYIP, is the method for allocating funds for rail, public transit, and highway projects.

The CTB reviews the SYIP each year. Working with localities, it prioritizes funds for projects proposed for construction, development or funding over the next six fiscal years. See www.virginiadot.org/projects/syp-default.asp.

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 How are projects included in the SYIP?

Local governments work with citizens and Virginia's transportation agencies to develop a plan that anticipates land use changes and travel patters more than two decades into the future.

Factors taken into consideration:

  • Statewide and regional plans that identify future needs
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  • An analysis of projected traffic volumes and population
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  • Business and residential growth
  •  
  • An evaluation of priorities
  •  
  • Input from citizens

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 What's the difference between the SYIP and the county Secondary Six-Year Plan?

State law requires the development and publication of separate programs for the secondary system of state highways in each county, known as the Secondary Six-Year Plan.

This plan is administered differently from the SYIP, as each county oversees their own secondary roads plan.

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 Does VDOT own toll facilities?

There are several toll facilities in Virginia, two of which are operated by VDOT:
 

  • Near Richmond, VDOT owns and operates the Powhite Parkway Extension.

  • The George P. Coleman Bridge is a toll facility that carries Route 17 over the York River between Yorktown and Gloucester County.

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 What is a Public-Private project?

Projects that are partnerships between VDOT and private industry fall under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995. This act enables VDOT to enter into agreements authorizing private entities to acquire, build, maintain and/or operate transportation facilities. The private entity normally maintains and operates the facility.

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 How is the public notified of a public hearing?

VDOT publishes the information in newspapers in the project area, and at www.virginiadot.org/projects/publicinvolvement.asp.

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 What's the difference between an interstate, primary and secondary road?

Interstates are four- to 10-lane highways connecting states and major cities.

Primary roads are two to six lanes and connect cities and towns with interstates.

Secondary roads are state maintained and generally numbered 600 and above. They are owned by the county but VDOT maintains operational control.

The exceptions are Arlington and Henrico counties, which maintain their secondary roads.

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 What's an HOV lane and a Express Lane?

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes require vehicles to carry more than one person. During HOV-restricted periods, HOV-2 lanes require at least two people per vehicle and HOV-3 lanes require three.

Express Lanes operate beside existing lanes and are reserved for buses, carpools, motorcycles, emergency vehicles and motorists who choose to pay a toll.

The number of cars using Express Lanes is controlled by variable toll pricing. When there is not much traffic, toll prices are low.

When congestion increases, toll prices rise to regulate the number of drivers wanting to enter the lanes.

The goal of variable pricing is to control the number of toll-paying cars in Express Lanes and keep them free-flowing.

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 Are their regulations or fines for over-height trucks trying to use Virginia's tunnels?

The Code of Virginia says the height of an unloaded vehicle shall not exceed 13 feet, six inches. Violations carry a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and three driver demerit points.

The Virginia State Police are responsible for enforcement. 

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 What is VDOT's process to clear snow?

Safety is our top priority. We prioritize work from the centerline of the roadway to the edges of the right of way to ensure safety.

Tanker trucks pre-treat roads with a salt brine as an anti-icing measure.

During snow, crews work around the clock in 12-hour shifts. VDOT's goal is to have state-maintained roads passable within 48 hours after the storm ends.

Plow drivers and sand and salt trucks have specific routes to maximize efficiency.

VDOT will plow a road when one or two inches of snow has accumulated. Before that occurs, sand, salt and other chemicals will be used to increase traction and melt snow.

See www.virginiadot.org/newsroom/snowseason.asp.

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How can I find out about the condition of bridges in my area?

Go to www.virginiadot.org/info/bridge_lists.asp

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 How can I check the traffic counts for a road?

Go to www.virginiadot.org/info/ct-trafficcounts-juris2007.asp. Go to the annual average daily traffic column for daily counts. 

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 What is the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research?

The council is the research arm of VDOT and is a partnership between the agency and the University of Virginia. It's in Charlottesville and engages in innovative research in the areas of:

  • Pavements
  • Structures
  • Materials
  • Safety
  • System operations
  • The environment

Visit www.vtrc.net.

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 Where's the best place for traveler information?

511Virginia.org provides a comprehensive set of tools to help the public in their travels.

The 511 system provides updated traffic and travel information that can be accessed online, through e-mail or mobile devices.

Information includes:

  • Accident and incident alerts
  • Live traffic cameras
  • Bridge and tunnel reports
  • Road construction
  • Road conditions

A customized "511 Control Room" lets users set up a personal travel information resource.

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 How do messages appear on changeable message signs?

This info originates from the commonwealth's Transportation Operations Centers.

Operators at the centers can alert motorists to incidents or congestion with the signs.

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 Who picks up animal carcasses on state-maintained roads?

VDOT keeps state roads clear of debris, including carcasses.

Citizens can report debris at 800-367-7623. Please provide the county, route number and name of the street.

The agency doesn't pick up animals from private property.

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 Who issues driver's licenses?

The Department of Motor Vehicles: www.dmvnow.com

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 How can I schedule an interview with the secretary of transportation or the VDOT commissioner?

Contact Tamara Rollison at 804-786-2715 or 804-335-5758.

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 Can we get access to VDOT's facilities to shoot video or photos?

All requests for access should be directed to the district communications manager.

For security and safety reasons, media are generally not allowed to shoot video or stills on tunnel property. However, VDOT is aware that unique events of interest may arise.

If the request is approved, media will be escorted while on the property.

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 Do you record images from traffic cameras?

No.

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 How can my TV station pick up feeds of traffic cameras?

Contact 511_videosubscription@iteris.com.

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Page last modified: Nov. 12, 2014