By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK - Motorists in Shenandoah County may not see road improvements for several years.
State officials estimate the county should receive approximately $4.73 million in funding for its Six-Year Secondary Road Improvement Plan. Edwin "Ed" Carter, assistant residency administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Edinburg Residency, gave the board an overview of the plan at a work session Thursday.
The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing May 28 on the Secondary System Improvement Plan that covers fiscal years through 2019.
Shenandoah County can expect to see no money from the state for secondary unpaved roads at least for the next several years. Estimated allocations in the secondary system construction program show an increase in funding in fiscal 2017 to slightly more than $1 million for the county.
"It's a pretty good start because in past years we haven't had anything being forecasted out," Carter said. "At least it's headed in the right direction."
Vice Chairman Dennis Morris commented on the plan.
"It is very encouraging to see that they have something to work with," Morris said.
Board Chairman Conrad Helsley pointed out the lack of funding expected for secondary unpaved roads in the next few years and said the state used to allocate about $3 million for roads in the county per year. Now the state has planned to spend $4.7 million over six years.
Carter noted that major projects focus primarily on bridge repairs and improvements and other safety measures that receive federal funds. For instance, VDOT plans to replace the one-lane, low water bridge on Artz Road near Woodstock at a cost of about $2.51 million. The project is slated to begin in 2015.
The plan also calls for VDOT to replace the bridge on Headley Road east of Route 654 near Maurertown in 2017 at an estimated cost of $2.16 million.
Supervisor David Ferguson noted that the state plans to spend approximately $12 million on bridge improvements.
"The sad part is one of them doesn't have any traffic," Carter said. "I mean literally no traffic."
Carter referred to the bridge on Headley Road. But VDOT has little choice: Carter explained that a bridge collapse in Minneapolis several years ago prompted Virginia and other states to check for deficient bridges and make repairs or replacements to avoid any similar incidents. The federal government has provided funding for projects that meet certain criteria.
Morris asked if Virginia could skip making repairs or replacing a deficient bridge or putting such a span lower on the list of priorities.
"You can't fall but so far off a low-water bridge," Morris said.
Carter noted that the major concern with deficient bridges focuses more on vehicles making it across without the span collapsing. VDOT could be held liable if they found a bridge to be deficient but chose not to repair or replace the span, Carter said.
Secondary unpaved road funds can only be spent on routes that are unpaved and have 50 vehicles per day, Carter said.
The plan indicates that VDOT lacks the funding needed to replace bridges on Seven Fountains Road in Fort Valley and Water Street in Edinburg.
VDOT anticipates having the funds necessary to begin projects in the years listed on the plan, Carter said. Many of the projects with starting dates in the later years are not yet fully funded.
VDOT plans to fund many of the new hardsurface projects with money from the agency's Rural Rustic Commonwealth Transportation Board's Unpaved Road program. The paving of a section of Supinlick Ridge Road remains unfunded.
The plan includes dozens of unpaved roads not yet prioritized.
According to information from VDOT, it costs approximately $305,000 per mile to pave roads in the Rural Rustic program. Reconstructing a 2-lane road would cost almost $810,000 per mile. A new, 2-lane road would cost $2.23 million per mile while the average 4-lane project would cost $4.46 million per mile. Reconstruction of a 4-lane road would cost $2.41 million per mile.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org