Counties to get less money for roads

By Alex Bridges

State transportation officials say less money for roads means counties need to push back projects on their priorities lists.

Boards of Supervisors in Warren and Shenandoah counties have discussed in recent weeks their individual secondary six-year plans that prioritize road paving and other improvements. Local leaders have learned that the Virginia Department of Transportation has less money to share with more projects.

Warren and Shenandoah counties plan to hold public hearings jointly with VDOT on their six-year plans. Warren County plans to hold a hearing at 7:30 p.m. on May 20 at the Board of Supervisors meeting. Shenandoah County has scheduled its hearing for 7 p.m. on May 27.

Last month the Commonwealth Transportation Board released the draft of the state’s Six-Year Improvement Program that allocates $13.1 billion to road projects. A VDOT press release stated that the amount is approximately $1.3 million less than the previous year’s program because state and federal funding has decreased.

Warren County’s list of road priorities for the period beginning in fiscal 2015 won’t change from the current plan, County Administrator Doug Stanley said Thursday.

“We haven’t been able to build anything so nothing has happened,” Stanley said. “We haven’t really added anything but we haven’t taken anything away.”

The administrator added that projects in the later years of the plan have been pushed back.

The replacement of the bridge over the Shenandoah River on Morgan Ford Road remains at the top of the list, followed by improvements to Happy Creek Road and then other projects. Stanley pointed out that most of the funding for the Morgan Ford Road bridge project comes from federal sources.

The county can expect to see VDOT complete work on the Oregon Hollow Road improvement project in the near future. VDOT should complete the first phase of Blue Mountain Road improvements in the next two or three fiscal cycles and the second phase after that, Stanley said. Beyond that project has no allocated funding or spending planned for any other priorities in the list.

In the current fiscal budget VDOT has $3,009,172 allocated for projects in Warren County. VDOT has $1,293,391 allocated in the fiscal 2015 budget for secondary road projects in the county — a drop of $1,715,241, or 57 percent.

The decrease in funding comes as a result of the state agency changing its criteria by which it includes unpaved roads in the secondary plan. By changing the traffic count limit on unpaved roads VDOT allowed many more rural routes to become eligible for funding. The increased number of eligible roads and lower revenue projections means VDOT can’t fund as many of the projects.

As Stanley pointed out, some roads in the county’s list show traffic counts of several hundred vehicles per day on average.

“We’ve got some high-volume, unpaved secondary roads that unfortunately we’re not able to get funding for so we’re going to have to push out some of these projects,” Stanley said.

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