State Delays Branch, Beulah

State Delays Branch, Beulah

When the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently released its six-year plan for Virginia road projects, reactions in Vienna were mixed.

Two local projects, one at Branch Road and the other at Beulah Road, were included in the plan, but are likely to be delayed. Mayor Jane Seeman said that a few months ago, when VDOT was devising the six-year funding plan, she thought the two roads might be cut.

"I have to be pleased we weren’t off the list altogether," Seeman said. "Nobody really knew what to expect."

And even though the two projects are included in the six-year plan, it will probably be years before construction begins. The reconstruction of Beulah Road, estimated to cost $5,815,000, is scheduled to come up for bid in late 2004, with construction beginning early 2005. Reconstruction of Branch Road, estimated to cost $4,688,000, should come up for bid in early 2007.

According to Town Council member Albert Boudreau, reconstruction of Beulah Road was scheduled for 2003. Seeman will be sending a letter to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which will be holding six-year plan public hearings on June 5. One of those public hearings will be in Wytheville, Va. and the other will be in Richmond.

"I’m going to ask that Beulah be passed forward another year or two," Seeman said. "Barring that, I’m going to try to get more maintenance funds to hold the road over until 2005."

Seeman said the reconstruction of Beulah Road is more pressing than the reconstruction of Branch Road. Without maintenance funds from the state, Vienna will be forced to do some patching on Beulah over the next few years.

"[Beulah] is eroding and it carries so much traffic that patching — that’s just what it is, patching," Seeman said. "It needs complete reconstruction, down to the road bed. It needs a curb and gutter. It needs to be taken to ground zero and rebuilt."

Boudreau said rebuilding the road will resolve some safety issues.

"The road is narrow in some places where it has deteriorated," Boudreau said. "There are blind spots. The road needs to be leveled out, so it will be safer."

THE SIX-YEAR PLAN, adopted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on May 16, outlines funding for transportation projects across Virginia. Although the plan gives a six-year projection, it changes every year depending on funding amounts and shifting priorities. This plan allocates $7.2 billion for Virginia roads, $2.9 billion less than was approved last year.

After Gov. Mark Warner's election last November, state officials started saying that some Virginia road projects would be cut from this year’s six-year plan. The VDOT Website,, mentions three reasons for delays and eliminations in the six-year plan: a downturn in the economy, increased funding for highway maintenance and "updated cost estimates for many projects that were significantly too low."

Reggie Beasley, an engineer from VDOT’s Urban Development Department, said that Branch Road was originally scheduled for construction before Beulah Road. But Vienna officials said Beulah was in worse condition, and needed to be moved ahead of Branch.

"We tried to hold funding as close as possible to what was in the six-year program before," Beasley said.

THE BRANCH ROAD project will run from Maple Avenue to Valley Drive. The road will be widened, curbs and gutters will be installed, with sidewalks on both sides of the street. On Beulah the road will be rebuilt and widened, with curb and gutter on both sides.

Also on the six-year plan is the extension of Cottage Street, from Moore Avenue to Cedar Lane. No dates are set for the project though. It is only on the plan in order to be evaluated for feasibility.

A series of spot improvements for Route 7, at the intersection where the road is crossed by Route 123, may be delayed as well. Originally planned for 2002, the spot improvements are scheduled for 2006 in the six-year plan.

After considering petitions made at the June 5 public hearings, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will approve the six-year plan on June 20.