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Posted May 15, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Valley to see small slice of new roads money

By Alex Bridges

A transportation law signed this week by Gov. Bob McDonnell puts an extra $4 billion into road and bridge projects across the commonwealth over the next six years.

The district that covers the Northern Shenandoah Valley can expect a boost in state funding for roads and bridges, though that amount represents a small portion of the total. The lion's share of the funding goes toward projects in Hampton Roads and other districts.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to receive extra money for the replacement of the U.S. 340 bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Warren County, spokeswoman Sandy Myers said Wednesday. VDOT estimates the project's cost at $82.3 million. The extra $52 million received through the new legislation means VDOT can move forward with advertising for bids for the project and then begin construction, Myers said.

The state doesn't have the funds yet, but officials have estimated how much money Virginia should receive through the various sources and under the new legislation, according to transportation officials.

A press release issued by the governor's office Wednesday shows an increase in funding of the annual six-year transportation plan to $15.4 billion. VDOT can expect to receive $11.1 billion -- an increase of $2.1 billion with the new funding -- for highways and bridge projects, according to the release. Rail and public transportation funding would increase by $600 million to $3 billion. The legislation also brings in $1.3 billion in new money specifically for projects in Hampton Roads.

VDOT expects to receive additional funding to study the Interstate 81 interchange at Winchester exit 313. VDOT now has $9 million allocated for the study and to possibly develop plans. Myers noted that the project is still in its early stages.

The agency plans initially to focus on maintaining the transportation infrastructure and performing rehabilitation where needed, Myers explained. The first year or two of the plan calls for such efforts.

"So we have a lot of pavement and bridges that need attention," Myers said.

One such pavement project covers a stretch of Interstate 81 in Shenandoah County. The plan calls for VDOT to rehabilitate the paving on the northbound side between milemarker 264 and 274, Myers said. Rehabilitation will involve the removal and replacement of pavement approximately 4 inches deep as well as reinforcement of the support material under the road.

VDOT expects to advertise for bids for the highway project this summer, Myers said.

VDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said the transportation legislation brings $261.9 million of additional money into the six-year plan for the Staunton District. The $493.5 million now in the plan includes previously allocated money from state, federal and local sources.

The $261.9 million, spread out over the six years of the plan, represents approximately 12.4 percent of the $2.1 billion allocated to VDOT for improvements to highways and bridges.

But without the new transportation legislation, Rollison said the funding for the Staunton District likely would remain flat or fall below the amount allocated in the six-year plan.

Transportation officials also have noted that the legislation brings not only new money but "sustainable" funds for roads and other projects.

In the release, McDonnell stated that the transportation program sustains thousands of jobs and brings billions of dollars in revenue to Virginia's economy.

Secretary Sean T. Connaughton noted that the board put the new money into programs that aim to rehabilitate existing roads, ease congestion and expand intercity passenger rail service. VDOT officials say the extra money helps the agency accelerate efforts to repair or replace aging bridges.

Most of the region's representatives in the legislature opposed aspects of the transportation bill and voted against the bill as it moved through this year's abbreviated General Assembly session. Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester, supported the legislation.

Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, voted against the legislation that he viewed as a tax increase.

"I opposed the transportation bill because I promised never to raise taxes on my constituents," Gilbert stated in an email Wednesday. "Furthermore, people should not be asked to pay more for a core government service when there are hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus revenue flowing into our state treasury."

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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