County plan covers few unpaved roads

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County residents can expect some state money to help improve a few unpaved roads in the coming years.

The Board of Supervisors and the Virginia Department of Transportation plan to hold a joint public hearing on the county’s Six-Year Plan for Secondary Highways 2018-2023 and on the associated, fiscal 2018 construction budget on May 23. Supervisors discussed the county’s plan with Ed Carter, assistant residency administrator in the Staunton District’s office in Edinburg, at a recent work session.

But, as Carter told the board, the funding forecast doesn’t look much different than in past years.

The plan lists more than a dozen projects for the next six years. Shenandoah County could receive an estimated $1.59 million for unpaved state roads spread out over fiscal 2018, 2019 and 2020. However, that funding source disappears after fiscal 2020. The state plans to implement a grant program for unpaved roads in fiscal 2021 through which the county could receive an estimated $1.69 million over a three-year period. The funding amounts are tentatively scheduled for the fiscal years as indicated, Carter noted.

Localities in the district must compete for funding beginning in fiscal 2021. Rather than compete against about 100 counties statewide, Shenandoah County would compete with 10 others in the district, Carter explained. How the change affects the grant funding for unpaved roads remains uncertain, he added.

Chairman Conrad Helsley asked who would conduct the research on the unpaved roads for Shenandoah County.

“The way that we currently understand it is the county board, just like today, will set the priorities on the roads in order in which they’d like to be done,” Carter said. “They will submit those roads and they will be weighed against the other counties.

“Since this is specified as unpaved roads, we don’t know if it’s going to be done that way or if you’re going to be allocated this up front,” Carter added. “Right now, for purposes of this six-year plan, it’s allocated to Shenandoah County. But I will point out these funds are predicated across the state based on forecasted revenues.”

That amount can change over time because the state bases the funding on factors, such as the wholesale price of gasoline, automobile sales and title changes, Carter said.

“It’s just not something I would go spend today,” Carter said.

The list of road improvements under consideration by the county would remain in place for fiscal 2021 unless supervisors decide to change the priorities, Carter noted.

VDOT plans to move forward this year with improvements to Dellinger Acres Road at an estimated cost of $395,000, Carter said. The project was slated for last year but funding became available this year. The previous budget included $51,000 toward improvements to Ridge Hollow Road. The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved an additional $159,000 for fiscal 2018 to make up the $210,000 needed to complete Ridge Hollow Road improvements.

The county has 170 miles of unpaved roads – the most of any locality in the Edinburg Residency.

The mild winter allowed VDOT to save $437,000 earmarked in the budget for snow removal for Shenandoah County, Carter said. VDOT plans to use the money for road maintenance but must spend the funds by June 20, he added.

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