New signs are a big benefit

Published 10:55 pm Friday, November 2, 2012

In recent years, the Virginia Department of Transportation has earned a reputation, somewhat deservedly, as a spendthrift state agency that is out of touch with the people it serves.

Incidents like the September traffic snarl that resulted from a thoughtless decision to close two out of three major river crossings at the same time exemplify VDOT officials’ disconnectedness. The department’s plan to pump more than $1 billion into a new 55-mile stretch of Route 460, which would then be turned over to a private company that would maintain the road and collect tolls for 40 years, distills the frequent impression of wasted taxpayer dollars.

But sometimes the agency gets things just right.

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A new series of electronic road signs has sprung up around Hampton Roads in recent months, designed to give motorists advance warning of traffic problems and quickest routes to various popular destinations. The latest road to get the signs is Route 164, from I-664 to the West Norfolk Bridge.

Hampton Roads’ regular traffic nightmares make the informational signs indispensible to drivers. The additional truck traffic expected along Route 164 as a result of growing port operations just across the Suffolk border in Portsmouth, as well as Suffolk’s burgeoning warehouse and distribution sector, means the newest signs are coming just in time.

VDOT gets plenty of complaints when its actions cause drivers and taxpayers grief. The agency deserves praise when it does things that serve to improve the lives of those same people.