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State Sideswipes Road Projects

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) may let the air out of more than 50 percent of primary road projects funded by the state.

With the economic downturn in mind, VDOT is using realistic funding projections for its Six-Year Highway Construction Program, a move that could reduce the number of funded projects by 51 percent for primary roads, 43 percent for secondary roads and 47 percent for urban roads in Virginia's towns and cities. Primary roads span two to six lanes and connect cities and towns with each other and with interstate roads, while secondary roads include local connectors and county roads generally numbered 600 and above. Interstate projects could see the smallest cut at 6 percent, since those projects receive federal government funding.

State funding for the fiscal year 2003 Highway Construction Program could be cut as much as 21 percent, or $2.2 billion, to create an annual reduction of $371 million from 2003-08. The program, as approved by the previous administration, included a large number of projects that could not be delivered on time or within budget, according to VDOT.

"Projects that we have underway, those are going to be top priorities," said Steve Tyrrell, assistant resident engineer at VDOT, at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Sterling Ruritan Club. Tyrrell said safety improvement projects and projects that address road capacity will be secondary considerations for the program, which is updated annually.

VDOT AND OTHER state agencies are feeling the effects of the state's budget situation, Tyrrell said. The program could be impacted by reduced revenues resulting from the economic downturn and the loss of anticipated funds from the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000, according to VDOT.

The local Board of Supervisors set priorities for secondary road projects and informs VDOT of each county's transportation needs, Tyrrell said. The secretary of transportation plans to release a project list to explain the impact on Loudoun's projects.

“The lack of funding is going to impact everyone,” said Supervisor Bill Bogard (R-Sugarland Run). “It certainly puts many of our projects into jeopardy. … We’re going to have some tough decisions to make.”

Following public hearings, VDOT plans to develop a new tentative six-year plan in May, which the Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to approve a month later. Projects that are funded primarily with federal funds or through special funds will not be affected, according to VDOT.