Road funding changes endorsed this week by the Commonwealth Transportation Board mean Albemarle will receive $5 million in funds that can only be used to pave dirt roads.
“Nearly 200 miles of Albemarle County’s 800 miles of secondary roads are still unpaved,” said Joel DeNunzio, the administrator of VDOT’s Charlottesville residency.
When Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation legislation passed the General Assembly earlier this year, five percent of new revenues generated by fee and tax increases were set aside to pave unpaved roads that carry over 200 vehicles a day.
VDOT officials project that will generate $113.5 million for unpaved roads statewide through 2019.
The new funding mechanism will also generate $88.8 million for projects on secondary roads, which are those numbered higher than 600. For the past few years, VDOT has only been able to fund new construction projects using the proceeds of a tax charged to cable television customers.
“Funding for [secondary roads] for the next six years is projected to increase significantly from the prior year’s projections of $350,000 per year,” said David Benish, chief of planning for Albemarle “Most of the funding increases are allocated for paving unpaved roads.”
Over the next six years, the county will receive a total of $2 million to use for non-paving projects.
“I’m not complaining about getting more unpaved road funds, but I guess it just seems that the secondary road funds are meager by comparison,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.
Aside from paving, the top three secondary road priorities are Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended and its bridge over the South Fork of the Rivanna River, and improvements to a
1.6 mile stretch of Proffitt Road. None of those projects are expected to accumulate significant amounts of money for several years.
Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors approved a list of how to spend the paving money over the next six years.
Two of the four priorities over that time will be to do a “rural rustic” paving of Gillums Ridge Road and a portion of Keswick Drive between Route 22 and Route 744. VDOT’s rural rustic standards allow for roads that carry less than 400 vehicles a day to be hard-surfaced in place without requiring straighter alignments.
Another priority is to pave the unpaved portion of Rio Mills Road for $3.25 million. In 2003, the road had a 650 vehicles a day.
Members of the public spoke at a public hearing to ask that their road receive some attention.
“I’m a resident of Doctor’s Crossing and when I moved out there 32 years ago, I was told we’d been on the list for 30 years,” said Paula Brown-Steedly. “That puts us on the list for 62 years now.”
However, paving Doctor’s Crossing will have to wait until 2019 because it is neither eligible for the new dedicated fund or the rural rustic paving project because of a 2006 count of 130 vehicles a day. That means it will have to wait for enough money to accumulate through other funding sources.
Brown-Steedly said that number was out of date.
“Today we have 87 homes on this two-mile road,” Brown-Steedly continued. “The amount of traffic makes it impossible to maintain the road.”
Supervisors asked DeNunzio to perform a new count.
“This is a road that has been identified by the school system as being dangerous for our school buses,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.
Benish said there is a chance the projects could move forward faster.
“With new information and perhaps additional funding, there may be opportunities to further work these projects up the list,” Benish said.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek warned Brown-Steedly and others that paving won’t solve all of their problems.
“Once the paving is done, people will probably go faster,” Mallek said. “I know you want to get rid of the potholes and the danger but be aware that speeding might be a consequence.”
Supervisors also added White Mountain Road to the list of paving projects.
“It’s the worst road in the county, bar none,” said Ronald Hahn, adding that the road frequently washes out every time after heavy rainfall.
The Board also requested that Gillums Ridge Road be paved before the bridge on Dry Bridge Road is closed for replacement later this year.
“Additional traffic is anticipated on Gillums Ridge Road as a detour route during the Dry Bridge Road closure,” Benish said. “VDOT is hopeful that paving will take place no later than July.”