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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- An analysis of projected traffic volumes and population
- Business and residential growth
- An evaluation of priorities
- Input from citizens
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.
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.
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.
VDOT publishes the information in newspapers in the project area, and at www.virginiadot.org/projects/publicinvolvement.asp.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Go to www.virginiadot.org/info/ct-trafficcounts-juris2007.asp. Go to the annual average daily traffic column for daily counts.
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:
- System operations
- The environment
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.
- 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.
This info originates from the commonwealth's Transportation Operations Centers.
Operators at the centers can alert motorists to incidents or congestion with the signs.
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.
The Department of Motor Vehicles: www.dmvnow.com
Contact Tamara Rollison at 804-786-2715 or 804-335-5758.
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.