On March 12, Virginia Governor Northam signed Executive Order 51, which declared a state of emergency for COVID-19. Since that day, VAA and VDOT have not had meetings with more than six people present in the same location. On October 14, that all changed. VDOT Senior Leadership, VAA Board of Directors, and other VAA members came together for the 4th Annual Discussion with the Department. Adhering to physical distancing and other safety regulations established by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health, nearly 60 people came together at the Hilton Richmond Downtown. Along with the people attending in person, many more VAA members and other VDOT officials participated virtually.
With the ongoing pandemic, future funding, and changes at VDOT were the primary focus for the meeting. FHWA Division Administrator Thomas Nelson covered the current Federal Funding status and the potential aspects of the next highway transportation funding billing proposed in the US House of Representatives and Senate. Mr. Nelson finished with an overview of the Everyday Counts 6 (EDC 6) program. Next to speak were Chief Engineer Bart Thrasher and Chief of Maintenance and Operations Kevin Gregg. Mr. Thrasher and Mr. Gregg covered the ongoing paving and construction season. They also discussed potential completion date changes for the 2021 maintenance paving contracts.
Chief Deputy Commissioner Rob Cary followed Thrasher and Gregg after the break. Mr. Cary discussed the organizational changes planned for VDOT. As he noted, most of VDOT’s Central Office and District staff have been working remotely since March. For many sections, efficiencies have been measured through remote working. However, most employees still come to a physical office occasionally. To evolve into the VDOT of tomorrow, VDOT must leverage technology to perform duties in the office, project site, and house. Finally, VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich updated attendees on COVID’s impacts on funding and the overall transportation program. Mr. Brich covered the current legislation regarding transportation funding in the Omnibus budget bill. He noted VDOT saw a reduction in funding ending FY 2020 of $121M. VDOT has taken many cost-saving measures to reduce expenses, but the impact on FY 2021 is still not clear. VDOT is awaiting direction from the Department of Taxation on revenue forecasts. By the December CTB meeting, VDOT will present any potential changes resulting from revenue forecasts and the Omnibus budget.
Following the formal presentations, attendees were encouraged to engage senior leadership in a question and answer session.
Members can access these presentations by visiting the VAA website and logging in as a member. To access a recording from the Discussion with the Department, contact the VAA office.