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Albemarle supervisors seek new process to prioritize rural road paving
David Benish, Albemarle County's acting planning director, May 4, 2016
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David Benish, Albemarle County's acting planning director
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Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, May 04, 2016 at 9:54 p.m.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors wants to change how rural road paving projects are ranked.

“Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on roads that were very small projects,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek.

For instance, a project to pave Bunker Hill Road is moving forward despite a vehicle count of only 70 vehicles a day.

Mallek and other supervisors asked for reform Wednesday during a discussion of the county’s secondary road priorities.

Every year, the list is updated as a way of communicating to the Virginia Department of Transportation what projects the county wants funded.

No final decisions were made and a public hearing will be held June 8.

Until the last decade, there was a formula that allocated funding for secondary road projects, but that money dried up following the recession.

However, VDOT still provides several hundred thousand dollars a year to pave rural roads, but Albemarle officials have pushed back on those over the years.

“The county has always considered unpaved roads a relatively low priority, and that’s because of the focus of our Comprehensive Plan, and our infrastructure policy is to focus our resources in the development areas,” said David Benish, the county’s acting director of planning.

There is currently a list of about two dozen potential paving projects.

Benish said the list is long because a previous Board of Supervisors made a decision that once a new project is added, it stays on the list at the place where it was prioritized and becomes the next in line.

“The intent of that was that projects that have lower traffic volumes don’t always stay at the bottom of the list but can find a way to filter up,” Benish said.

County Attorney Larry W. Davis said the existing policy was put in place in 2004 because every year peo-ple would come forward to protest that their requests were being denied.

“They would say their road has been on the list for 40 years,” Davis said, adding that the policy was changed to allow those projects to move forward.

Mallek said that was a huge problem because some of those projects might not make be the best use of lim-ited resources.

“If possible, it would be great not to continue on with where we’ve been going,” Mallek said.

Supervisors reached a consensus to direct staff to amend the existing prioritization process for paving projects.  Instead, county staff will generate a list that will allocate funding to projects that would serve roads with higher vehicle counts.

“We have to prioritize, and I think there are going to be people who are very angry at us, and I understand that, but we have to some better criteria if we only have $300,000 or so to spend [each year],” said Supervisor Liz Palmer.

Paving of Bunker Hill Road and Preddy Creek Road are currently funded and are the next projects to go forward. County Transportation Planner Gerald Gatobu said the next projects after that are Patterson Mill Lane and Harris Creek Road.

Gatobu said Whites Mountain Road is next but there has been opposition from some residents to the project moving forward.

“I don’t think we can go forward with it unless we have consensus from the neighbors,” Palmer said.

 

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