County invites public to transportation forum

Frederick County and state officials put all topics on the table for Tuesday’s annual Frederick County transportation forum.

The county plans to hold its third-annual  forum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the government center, 107 N. Kent St., Winchester. The Transportation Committee hosts the event with Board of Supervisors, Department of Planning and Development staff, Sheriff’s Office representatives and officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The forum benefits residents as well as local and state officials, said John Bishop, assistant director for transportation with the county Department of Planning and Development.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to interact with people on a one-on-one basis and get their thoughts and it also gives them the opportunity to interact with, of course, board members, Planning Commission members, Transportation Committee members and also state delegates and VDOT officials,” Bishop said Thursday. “It’s kind of a one-stop shopping event for your average citizen, if you will, in terms of if they want to talk to somebody about a transportation thought or concern that they may have.”

Topics up for discussion include but are not limited to:

• Transportation funding and allocation of limited county resources

• Public safety

• Local projects and programs

• Secondary/rural roadways

• Interstate 81

Anyone who attends may also bring up transportation concerns and questions.

VDOT’s new SmartScale program scores and prioritizes local projects for funding influenced somewhat by public input.

“It’s one of the reasons for us that the public involvement is so important to make sure we’re applying for the right projects, making sure the board’s priorities match those of the citizens,” Bishop said. “Our board does a very nice job with that but that’s one of the reasons we have these opportunities – to make sure we stay that way.”

Transportation topics run the gamut from the safety of Interstate 81 to the county’s unpaved roads, Bishop noted. Concerns with the interstate arise every so often with a recent push spurred by a call from law enforcement for state legislators to address safety on the highway in the aftermath of deadly crashes.

Efforts to make the interstate safer, either through adding more lanes or by other means come and go without change, usually because the state can’t afford the options. But people should remain vigilant, Bishop said.

“I would say, frankly, we have to keep at it,” Bishop said. “Throwing up our hands and giving up is not an option.

“We have to keep the conversations going,” Bishop said. “We are definitely in a time of restricted finances, if you will. The idea of coming through and doing a wholesale widening right now is not really on the table, no matter how much we wish it was.”

Other parts of the county also pose transportation challenges, especially areas that experience development, Bishop said. Sections of the U.S. 11 corridor see more traffic but the county needs more money to implement plans in place aimed at improving the roads, Bishop said. The county also continues to push for the extension of VA 37 from Kernstown to U.S. 522 as well as the next phase of improvements along state VA 277 from the Stephens City exit at I-81 to Double Church Road.

Road safety, in many cases, comes down to the drivers.

“Certainly that’s always a key component,” Bishop said. “As transportation planners and engineers, we want the best possible scenario out there, whether it be the least number of potential conflict points, control of access management in terms of how many of conflict points there are in the form of entrances and things like that; how you design your intersections to the maximum amount of safety there can be.

“But, yes, John Q. Public still has to drive the car and of course we definitely have, not just here but the country in general, a growing concern with items such as distracted driving,” Bishop added. “That’s an ongoing issue that I know our law enforcement folks are focusing on as well.”

Increased development also affects the county’s roads.

“Growth absolutely feeds the need for transportation improvements,” Bishop said. “Growth equals trips, equals need for more transportation facilities so, yes, that’s without question.”

Contact the county Department of Planning and Development at 665-5651 for more information or to make special accommodations or visit www.fcva.us/transportation.