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Posted May 9, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Improvements to Warren County roads in planning stage

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- Motorists could see improvements on some Warren County roads in the next few years.

The Board of Supervisors met with officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation at their work session Tuesday for an early look at the Secondary System Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2014-2019. VDOT officials had a similar discussion with Shenandoah County supervisors last week. The meetings come ahead of required public hearings.

Warren County supervisors heard from Edwin "Ed" Carter, assistant residency administrator for VDOT's Edinburg residency.

"I guess the good news in all of this is that the secondary road system is being boosted as a result of the [Virginia] General Assembly's actions, fairly significantly in terms of this six-year plan," Carter said.

The economic downturn meant less money the state could spend to improve secondary roads, Carter said. The official noted that the current plan shows a boost in the funding for such projects compared to previous years.

Some of the money coming to the region is restricted to unpaved roads -- funds that jurisdictions closer to Washington, D.C., would not use anyway -- County Administrator Douglas Stanley said.

"I think actually the way it was structured is going to benefit rural counties like Warren to a much greater degree," Stanley said.

Through the life of the six-year plan, Warren County would receive $4.62 million. The plan calls for the county to see only $124,813 in fiscal 2014. However, that amount increases over the next few years.

"That's assuming the revenues come forth as projected," Carter said. "But that's significantly more than it's been for the past few years."

Carter acknowledged Wednesday that funding allocated years in the future may not materialize if state revenues lag below the estimates.

But Carter has explained that in the years ahead the board may change what they feel are priorities.

Funds listed in the plan come from four categories of projects, such as unpaved roads that have 200 or more vehicle trips per day or routes considered non hard-surfaced that see 50 vehicle trips per day.

Carter explained that the county could begin receiving money in the "formula secondary state" category -- one that had not seen funding in years. The category does not have restrictions so the county could use the funds for unpaved roads or to repair paved roads. The funds would not become available until fiscal 2017, Carter said.

Stanley pointed out that more expensive projects such as improvements to Happy Creek Road only qualify for funds from the smaller pots of money. But the county can still apply to VDOT to consider Happy Creek Road a major project over and above the secondary sources, Carter said. Warren County would then need to have a representative make a pitch for the project at the Commonwealth Transportation Board's public hearing, Carter said.

Some of the roads listed in the plan lie within the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. Such projects are being funded through the state's revenue-sharing program by which the county, or in this case the property owners, cover half the cost with VDOT picking up the remainder. Roads included in the plan are Youngs and Fellows drives and Tomahawk Road from Mt. Oriole Lane to Freezeland Road.

The draft of the plan identifies the reconstruction and widening of Howellsville Road for 1.2-mile stretch near Morgan Ford Road. The section sees approximately 2,300 vehicle trips per day. VDOT estimate a cost of $3.15 million. The project is not yet funded.

Carter told supervisors that VDOT is securing rights-of-way for the Oregon Hollow Road project.

Carter also updated the board on work to improve Totten Lane at Va. 55 (Strasburg Road). VDOT is seeking the right of way needed to relocate utility lines, Carter said. VDOT is trying to work with six property owners on the north side of Va. 55.

Stanley noted that the supervisors need to hold the local public hearing before the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Fox asked if supervisors should hold another work session on the plan before the public hearing. Carter said the board may want to meet for another work session if members seek to make any major changes. But Carter advised the board that changes suggested by input given at the hearing can still make it into the plan.

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

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