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No help for local roads in transit package

SoVaNow.com / March 13, 2013
VDOT engineer Billy Smith delivered harsh news this week to Mecklenburg County supervisors — don’t expect any additional funds for road repairs or upgrades in the next several years, despite passage of the Governor’s new transportation financing bill.

For now, according to Smith, the county’s funding for roadwork, estimated at $90,000, will continue to come from a single source, tele-fees.

In December, Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced a Transportation Funding and Reform Package, which he claimed would generate over $3.1 billion in additional transportation funding over the next 5 years. Unfortunately, none of the money is specifically earmarked for secondary road upgrades — the majority is to be used for highway, rail, and aviation upgrades.

Localities will only see a share of the 5.8 percent sales tax, which they can use for local transportation priorities. The total amount available for all localities is estimated at $138 million over 5 years.

The message was delivered as the supervisors’ roads committee met this week to approve its most recent version of the six-year plan drawn by the Virginia Department of Transportation for the repair and construction of local roads and bridges.

The plan, which supervisors are asked to approve each year, designates three roads for upgrade, but only one of them is likely to be undertaken each year or two. The most recent road upgrade was done on Lone Oak Road.

Smith said VDOT expects to complete upgrades on Esnon Road next year, and Lucinda’s Direct Road the following year.

Supervisor David Brankley asked why any road, which runs through an area that is not heavily developed, would be a candidate for upgrade- particularly when there is so little money and so many other roads that are more heavily traveled.

Smith’s response, “We’re only here to do what you want and ask.”

It was County Administrator Wayne Carter who shared the history behind the selection of roads for the six-year plan. He explained that several years before, when VDOT had an abundance of money to pave or upgrade secondary roads, the decision was made to perform improvements on roads all around the county, not just those most heavily traveled. The fear was only those roads around Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston would every see improvement.

Supervisor Andy Hargrove suggested that VDOT’s lack of finances obligated the supervisors to revisit the way roads were selected for the six year plan. He proposed moving forward with work on both Esnon and Lucinda’s Dirt Road, but before adding a third road to the plan, he directed VDOT to list all roads in the County, not currently paved, in order of their traffic count. From that list, he suggested, Supervisors develop the new six-year plan.

Bill Blalock, a vocal opponent of VDOT’s six year plan, questioned the need for exercise since there would be no money to upgrade roads for at least three years. Still supervisors agreed to work with VDOT adding roads to the 6-year plan in the hopes that improvements monies would become available.

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