Changes to VDOT program could affect future road projects

Proposed changes to a state transportation initiative could delay or cut funding to many Warren County road projects.

The county relies heavily on VDOT’s cost-sharing program, especially in its effort to upgrade roads in some rural neighborhoods to state standards. County Administrator Doug Stanley said Tuesday he hadn’t heard specifics but acknowledged that proposed changes could affect local projects.

“Every year the county has a list of projects that we apply for our revenue sharing program,” Stanley said.

The county has proposed, planned or completed dozens of cost-sharing transportation projects, especially in the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District. The county continues to improve the subdivision’s 40-plus miles of unpaved roads to state standards after which VDOT adopts the streets into its system for further maintenance. The state approves projects and the county, property owners and VDOT share in the cost.

The state has a tiered system, the first of which includes projects already in the pipeline, Stanley explained.

“It’s my understanding there’s like $99 million in requests for just tier 1 projects, which would take up the available funding,” Stanley said.

The state reduced its cost-sharing funds from $150 million to $100 million projected for this year, Stanley added.

The state’s “revenue-sharing” program took a hit a couple of years ago when the General Assembly approved SMART Scale – a new method by which the Commonwealth Transportation Board prioritized and funded projects. The board decided to reduce the statewide allocation for funding the cost-sharing program. The Six-Year Implementation Program tentatively earmarks $100 million per year for “revenue-sharing projects.”

“What’s happening is I think money is being diverted toward the SMART Scale application process and less money is available for revenue-sharing,” Stanley said. “I think it hurts smaller localities at the end of the day like Warren.”

The changes would affect projects slated for Shenandoah Farms, Stanley said.

“We’d be less likely to get funding and support on the secondary projects,” Stanley added. “You know they’re not going to score well on the SMART Scale funding but we’ve been very successful in obtaining revenue-sharing funding, which has allowed us to advance some of these projects over the last few years.”

“So I think what we’re gonna see at least probably for next year is that most of our newer, smaller projects may not qualify,” Stanley said.

Warren County had money allocated for a project to serve the Crooked Run shopping center. The Crooked Run Boulevard Extension might receive some funding since money already had been approved for the design, Stanley said. The project, listed fifth in order of priority for county cost-sharing initiatives, would extend the road to a bridge over Crooked Run and to Ritenour Hollow Road.

The administrator added that he had not yet seen a list of what projects would or would not qualify.

The Local Assistance Division outlined possible changes to the cost-sharing program in a Dec. 6 presentation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Options presented to the board included:

• A limit on total annual allocations to $5 million per locality and $10 million per 2-year funding cycle

• A limit on the allocation per project of $10 million

• A requirement that a locality spend its money on a project before the state can approve additional funds

• Requirement that any local funds committed on application as part of prior Revenue Sharing allocation be spent before additional allocations are approved.

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