Audit finds $1 billion in unspent transportation funds
Thursday, September 23, 2010
RICHMOND -- Virginia, desperate for much-needed cash for road maintenance, paving and highway projects, got a shot in the arm Thursday as an audit found about $1 billion for maintenance and construction.
The independent audit, requested by Gov. Bob McDonnell in April, found nearly $900 million in unspent transportation funds over the past two fiscal years.
"We need to get this money out the door now," McDonnell said Thursday. "We've got to do better. These numbers are unacceptable."
Of the $1 billion in available funds, about $614 million could be used for maintenance and construction projects within the next 12 months.
Specific projects would be identified within 45 days, said Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.
McDonnell cited the High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes project on Interstate 95/395 and interchange work on Interstate 66 as examples of stagnant projects that could benefit from an infusion of funds.
"There are any number of secondary road projects ... that could possibly get funds," he added.
VDOT will award between $800 and $900 million in contracts by the end of the year, he said.
Poor management decisions regarding how much money was doled out and held in reserve kept $1 billion on the sidelines that should have been spent, McDonnell said.
Money was sitting idle when the state was closing rest stops to save $9 million, said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling -- a shot at the move by former Gov. Tim Kaine, which McDonnell reversed when he took office.
"That simply doesn't make sense," Bolling said.
The audit also found a lack of accountability for spending project allocations and a lack of openness in the process. McDonnell has directed transportation officials to craft a plan within 45 days to address the findings.
The state can free up an estimated $1.45 billion for projects in its six-year transportation plan by better leveraging federal funds and revising the department's reserve cash policy, among other changes, the audit found. Virginia also has $200 million available for maintenance projects left over from last fiscal year.
Since 2009, the state had slashed about $2.8 billion from its transportation plan.
McDonnell had lobbied for an independent audit in 2008 when he was serving as attorney general under Kaine.
For additional information contact Ibbie Hedrick at 804-225-2487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.