Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske September 19, 2011

Rest stops reopen quickly

Bob McDonnell has long argued the scope of government must be reduced.

But when state transportation officials closed 19 of the 42 rest stops on Virginia interstates in 2009 to save money, the Republican said things had gone too far.

McDonnell was campaigning for governor back then. The decision to close the rest stops was made by the Commonwealth Transportation Board and backed by outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat struggling with a state budget ravaged by recession. The shuttering, expected to save $9 million, drew protests from the travel industry, the American Automobile Association and more than a few drivers.

On July 21 of that year -- one day before the rest stops closed -- McDonnell made a promise.

"Within 90 days of my taking office, all 19 rest stops will be open again,” he declared in a news release during a debate that day.

"It's a safety issue,” McDonnell said. "You close a welcome center, you're basically stamping a `Virginia is Closed for Business' sign on Virginia. I think that's unacceptable.”

His opponent, Democrat Creigh Deeds, went one better, vowing to reopen the facilities in 60 days if he became governor.

McDonnell was inaugurated on Jan. 16, 2010. Four days later, he appeared before the Transportation Board and urged it open the rest areas. "Anybody who's driven in a car for more than a couple of hours with small kids knows the importance of this,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to open the facilities by April 15 that year.

The first four reopened Feb. 17. On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, McDonnell cut a green ribbon to open a stop along Interstate 85 in Dinwiddie County. The last seven rest areas were accepting deposits again on April 14 -- one day ahead of schedule.

That was the 89th day of McDonnell"s administration, so this is a Promise Kept.

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