Officials hear complaints about unpaved roads, I-81

WINCHESTER — Interstate 81 took a back seat to unpaved roads in Frederick County during a transportation forum Wednesday.

While increasing safety on the interstate remains high on the list of priorities in Frederick County, many of the people who showed up for the event urged transportation and planning officials as well as local and state elected leaders to find the money to pave Laurel Grove Road. Several residents spoke at the forum about the road’s condition and the increasing number of motorists who drive the gravel route every day. Some speakers also mentioned other dirt roads on the list.

Representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation, local planning agencies and the Sheriff’s Office fielded questions from residents about road projects. Members of the Frederick County Board of Supervisors and two of the county’s representatives in the House of Delegates also appeared at the event and responded to speakers’ concerns.

Both Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester, and Del. J. Randall “Randy” Minchew, R-Leesburg, serve on the House of Delegates Transportation Committee. Collins commented during his statements to the crowd that the state had failed over the years to provide the county its fair share of transportation funding. Collins said he would try to rectify that when the General Assembly convenes in 2018.

Laurel Grove Road has inched its way up the county-wide list of non-hard surface road improvement projects and now sits in second and third place. Laurel Grove Road lies in the Back Creek Magisterial District in the southwestern part of the county. The two, 1.25-mile sections of Laurel Grove Road would cost roughly $376,000 each to pave, according to the county’s secondary road improvement plan.

Longtime residents of Laurel Grove Road say the gravel route has been in the plan for years but only recently moved up on the list as VDOT completed other projects. Janet Bunner and Betsy Steele said their road suffers from ruts and potholes after heavy rains and spreads dust during dry days. In the winter, plows leave a layer of snow that packs down and turns to ice making travel tough.

Meanwhile, area law enforcement agencies have pushed to make safety improvements along I-81 in the wake of recent fatal crashes. The concept of widening the interstate has re-emerged. A VDOT document on I-81 cited an estimated cost of $10 million to $15 million per mile to add one lane to the highway if the state pursued a widening project. Improvements to each interchange also could cost $30 million to $50 million.