Little-known state law forces VDOT to push back permanent pothole fix

It’s not a secret compared to the rest of the state, VDOT’s numbers show Hampton Roads has the largest amount of interstates considered “very poor” to drive on.

One of those highways, no surprise, is Interstate 264.

Drivers heading eastbound during their commute from Norfolk to Virginia Beach try to avoid the countless potholes found on the stretch of highway, but during rush hour Wednesday, VDOT’s cameras captured something we rarely see–crews doing emergency pothole repairs.

Drivers have been complaining since the beginning of the winter about the problems…so why now? What made these potholes bad enough to fix, and shut down several lanes of traffic in the process?

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VDOT wouldn’t go on camera with NewsChannel 3, only responding through email that crews check “constantly” for potholes.

“An emergency pothole repair is decided by our interstate maintenance contractor crew,” said Lauren Hansen, VDOT’s public relations manager. “In reference to yesterday on I-264 east in Norfolk, potholes were identified by our maintenance contractor that needed immediate repair.”

So how did these potholes get so bad in the first place that VDOT has to resort to emergency repairs during rush hour?

VDOT has admitted the potholes are still there because they ran out of money to complete a concrete replacement project this past fall.

And according to the state’s contract engineer, a little known Virginia law prevented them from moving money around to finish fixing the roadway before winter.

It all started two years ago. NewsChannel 3’s cameras rolled as Denton Concrete Services started work on Interstate 264 in Norfolk back in 2011. They were the company hired by VDOT for a concrete replacement project.

Their mission: to remove pothole ridden slabs of roadway and replace them with fresh, new, drivable sections.

Once work started, VDOT says Denton came to them with bad news–that the concrete was in much worse shape, and that more money would be needed to complete the project.

VDOT was able to provide a little bit more, but it only allowed Denton to finish the westbound lanes, and one eastbound lane.

Many NewsChannel 3 viewers have asked how VDOT managed to underestimate how bad the roads were, but according to the concrete company that did the work, it’s typical for projects like this to not have enough money allotted.

NewsChannel 3 got in contact with Denton Concrete Services President Jim Tanner, and he says the reason VDOT didn’t budget properly is because “it is impossible to ascertain the extent of damage while the road is open to traffic,” said Tanner. “VDOT recognized early on in our project that there was not enough [money] to perform all the repairs, and they increased our contract to the maximum amount they were allowed to.”

That’s right—VDOT couldn’t give them enough money to finish the project, because they were barred by state law from doing so.

According to Virginia statutes, contracts can only be increased by 25% over the original amount.

If more work is needed, a new, separate contract must be put out to bid.

Virginia does this to prevent misuse of public money and to make sure state work is spread out to as many businesses as possible.

That’s why drivers will have to wait until the spring for permanent pothole relief.