Residents ask for Gillums Ridge Road to be paved

Residents of Gillums Ridge Road in western Albemarle County appealed to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to complete an unfinished paving project.

“Several years ago, the Virginia Department of Transportation paved part of that road,” said Tim McLaughlin, who has lived there with his wife for 34 years. “Because we live near Interstate 64 and the Ivy landfill, our short section of road that is still dirt and gravel has become a shortcut.”
McLaughlin said the many cars and trucks that travel each day on the eight-tenths of a mile unpaved section of the road kick up a “storm of dust” that is causing health problems for him and other problems for his neighbors.
The unpaved portion is between Dry Bridge Road and Broad Axe Road.
Their request came at a time when the county is establishing its secondary-road funding priorities for the next fiscal year. That information is provided to VDOT so their planners can begin work on engineering and other steps required for road construction and maintenance.
Following passage of a new transportation funding system by the General Assembly earlier this year, the Commonwealth Transportation Board has established a special fund to pave roads across the state.
That will mean Albemarle will have about $5 million in dedicated funds for that purpose over the next six years. However, that money must go toward roads that carry more than 200 vehicles per day.
The residents’ request was supported by supervisors.
“Gillums Ridge Road needs to be at the top of our priority list,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek. 
County planner David Benish has recommended moving five paving projects to the top of the paving list, including Gillums Ridge Road. The others are a portion of Rio Mills Road, Doctor’s Crossing Road, Midway Road and Keswick Drive. 
All but Rio Mills Road would be paved using VDOT’s Rural Rustic program, which only paves on the existing roadway and not on additional right-of-way. Project costs are lower because streets are not straightened and there is no shoulder.
“The projects we’re looking at here typically would be starting in July of 2014,” said Joel DeNunzio, VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency administrator. He said he would try to get to work on 
Gillums Ridge Road this year, but work can’t begin until money is allocated to the project.
However, DeNunzio said he will prioritize Gillums Ridge Road to see if it can be done sooner, but the weather will be a factor.
“If we really want to do Gillums Ridge this year, the money wouldn’t actually be there until July of this year and then we can start the permitting process,” DeNunzio said. “But the most important thing about the Rural Rustic is that you have to put the [asphalt] down in warm weather or it will fall apart.”
VDOT has completed four Rural Rustic paving projects in the last year — on Rose Hill Church Lane, Fortune Lane, Blufton Road and Happy Creek Road.
Supervisors did not spend much time discussing construction projects on secondary roads in the county’s development area.
Currently, Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended and a widening of Proffit Road are the top three road construction projects for Albemarle, followed by the Fontaine-Sunset Connector and improvements on Old Lynchburg Road.
Benish said he is not recommending any changes to the county’s secondary-road priorities this year because the Metropolitan Planning Organization has until next spring to adopt a new long-range transportation plan.
“That document significantly informs the priorities on our list,” Benish said.
Albemarle has not received any secondary-road funding for the past few years, but that will slowly resume in fiscal year 2016 with a $137,000 allocation.
The board will hold a public hearing on secondary-road and unpaved-road priorities at its meeting June 12.