Highland Board of Supervisors July Work Session

The Highland Board of Supervisors tackled the twisty topic of the county roadways at its July work session. On hand to help navigate the discussion were Susan Hammond, Mike Henry and Raymond Lightner from the Virginia Department of Transportation, and Ann Cundy and Kevin McDermott from the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission.

Ms. Hammond, the Lexington Residency Administrator, opened the discussion with an explanation of the new law House Bill 2, which will govern how roadway construction projects are funded. Starting this year, localities must go through an online application process to propose highway construction projects for their areas that meet one of the needs identified in the state’s 25 year transportation planning document, known as Vtrans 2040 – these needs are corridors of statewide significance, regional networks and urban development areas.  These projects are then scored based on several key factors including  congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety, and environmental quality. The factors are weighted depending on an area’s population, from urban to rural, and are also calculated relative to the cost of the project.

Ms. Hammond stressed that this process was not a result of an influx of new money to fund projects, but rather a fairer way to prioritize future projects for funding. She noted current secondary and unpaved road projects are not affected, nor will bridge reconstructions need to go through this process.  Both she and Ms. Cundy recommended the Supervisors give thought to any potential projects they had in mind, and make sure the county’s comprehensive plan has proper language to make it eligible to apply. They both offered their respective offices as resources should an application be pursued.

The conversation then moved to roadway maintenance, with a specific focus on the recent patching work that has been done on Route 250, which the Board has heard many concerns about. Mr. Henry, also from the Lexington residency and local supervisor Mr. Lightner explained that patching, while inconvenient, was a necessary evil to prolong the life of the road. If developing cracks are not sealed, it allows water to get into the base, and expand and freeze during winter, which breaks down the surface, creating potholes. The patching methods used were the standard statewide, and the most cost effective, and without such maintenance, the harsh winters would deteriorate the roads much more quickly, and the locality would be faced with fighting for other areas for overlay dollars. It was noted that different options, including better ways of warning travelers of patched roads and loose gravel would be explored in the future.

The Board also enquired about potential damage caused to roadways if the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project was approved, and was informed that, if the contractors trucks are legally loaded, which is monitored by the State Police,  deterioration to roads are VDOT’s responsibility to repair. Mr. Henry did note that Dominion had been a partner in the past in Rockbridge County, providing funding to repair some damaged roads caused by their construction.

The only other action the Board took during the meeting was to appoint Robin Sullenberger to the Board of the Shenandoah Valle Partnership, with Betty Mitchell named as an alternate.

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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