By Joe Beck
WOODSTOCK -- The condition of Shenandoah County back roads ravaged by a tornado three years ago and more recent wear and tear caused by rough weather, traffic and water erosion has led residents of those areas to plea for help from state transportation officials.
Stephen Larrabee, a retired Navy veteran, was among 10 people who spoke at a Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this week. They urged Edwin Carter, assistant residency administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation's Edinburg office, to do more to repair and improve the roads.
Larrabee lives on Dysart Road, which threads its way through the lush hills and fields west of Woodstock. The unpaved road is edged with deep gullies too narrow for two-way traffic, especially if one of the vehicles is wider than average, Larrabee said in an interview Thursday.
"This is a live issue," Larrabee said of the condition of Dysart and similar roads. "There are a lot of dirt roads in the county."
Those roads and others were the subjects of a public hearing the Board of Supervisors held with Carter to receive comments on VDOT's proposed six-year plan for secondary roads from fiscal years 2015 to 2020 and the secondary system construction budget for fiscal year 2015. Both documents set priorities for road projects in counties throughout the state.
Carter cited the unusually severe winter and smaller than expected revenue as among the reasons VDOT is short of the money needed to advance many of its scheduled projects. Carter also said the list of roads eligible for paving has expanded at the same time the department has less money for such projects.
Three of the 10 speakers at the hearing live on Kelly Road where they are still coping with the effects of a tornado that swept through the area three years ago.
Leo Polk said the storm and subsequent removal of debris left the road in the worst shape he has ever seen it.
"I'm a 1967 Vietnam veteran, and the road back then was better than it is now," Polk told Carter.
Robert Baker, another Kelly Road resident, said bulldozers tore up the road in the aftermath of the tornado.
"There's potholes on that road that are 6 inches deep," Baker said.
But Baker sounded a different note when he was interviewed by telephone Wednesday. Baker said he was "amazed" and elated when he returned home in the afternoon and found work crews were well along toward repairing the damaged road. Baker estimated they had fixed about three or four miles of the road and had about another 21/2 miles to go.
Those who spoke at the public hearing appeared to have made a difference with VDOT, Baker said.
"Believe or not, we must have shook some serious trees last night," Baker said. "It looks like they put asphalt in all the big potholes."
VDOT officials were not available for comment Thursday afternoon.
Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ferguson said at the end of the public hearing that he would be meeting with Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg and F. Dixon Wentworth, the area's representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, to learn more about future funding of road projects.
"That would at least let us know what to expect over the next few years," Ferguson said.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org