Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s pick for secretary of transportation says the department is “laser focused” on preparation for this weekend’s snow, coming days after the overnight standstill on Interstate 95.
“Saturday night it could be ugly” and Virginia could get “lots of snow,” Sheppard “Shep” Miller told the House Transportation Committee on Thursday.
“We are laser focused on making sure we can deal with that,” he said, noting that the department is working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and other agencies to “make sure that we keep our roads safe, that we keep them open” and commerce flowing.
“It looks like it’s going to come Saturday night and it’s going to be a nice surprise, a nice welcome from the dear Lord to our new governor on his first night after being inaugurated,” Miller said.
“But I can assure you that we’re going to do everything that we can do to make sure that we have a safe road system in the commonwealth.”
Outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration drew criticism for the nearly 50-mile backup on I-95 that left hundreds of drivers in their cars overnight in cold temperatures and with little or no access to food, water or key information.
Miller, a Norfolk resident, has served on the Commonwealth Transportation Board for about eight years, first under Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell and later under Northam, a Democrat Miller described as a friend from Norfolk.
He retired four years ago as chairman of KITCO Fiber Optics after selling the defense-contracting firm.
Miller briefly sketched the incoming administration’s goals for roads, highways, rail, transit, aviation and the Port of Virginia.
He noted that Youngkin has promised to increase funding for roads and highways. Miller pledged to focus on “investing that money smartly.”
Miller also alluded to Youngkin’s proposal to suspend for 12 months a 5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax increase that took effect July 1.
“The governor-elect also recognizes the rising cost of living, including fuel costs, and he will work with the legislature to provide some relief on the motor vehicles fuels tax,” Miller said.
“With the additional federal and state monies that are flowing into our coffers, coming into transportation, there’s absolutely money to continue to invest in transportation,” while focusing on needed projects and “easing the burden of our taxpayers,” Miller told the panel.