Loudoun County is facing an unexpected 25 percent cut in funding for secondary road improvements and construction.
Area legislators and the county supervisors were dissatisfied last month when it appeared the General Assembly had not increased transportation funding. Then, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced last week that the six-year budget for Loudoun County secondary roads was reduced from $39 million to $31 million, said Chip Taylor, assistant director of the Office of Transportation.
The decrease does not affect maintenance. "VDOT's main priority is to maintain what it already has," he said.
Secondary roads are any thoroughfare with route numbers of 600 or higher, such as Ashburn Road, Sterling Boulevard and Algonkian Parkway. Taylor said the majority of the county's roads are secondary.
"IT'S COUNTERPRODUCTIVE certainly when we're dealing with greatly increasing congestion," he said. "It drives home the point we're going to have to get creative, find another way to get roads built."
James Zeller, senior transportation engineer of the VDOT preliminary engineering office in Leesburg, said proportional cuts were made throughout the state. "The whole state is in the same boat."
Zeller said he had hoped the reductions would be made in other areas of the transportation budget, leaving the secondary road funding intact.
"The draft plans that came out in March reflected the level of funding from the Governor's draft budget, including $1.3 billion in new monies statewide," he said. "During the budget negotiating process, those new monies were taken off the table. The department (VDOT) is in the process of removing $1.3 billion."
Taylor said he is trying to find other "pots of money" at VDOT. "Beyond that, no matter what we do, VDOT is not going to fund all of our needs," he said. "They aren't going to come close."
OTHER SOLUTIONS are proffers and public/private partnerships, he said. For instance, the county Office of Transportation is trying to negotiate proffers so developers will fund a continuous road between the Greenway and Route 50.
"Other jurisdictions have gone the bond route," he added. "That would have to be something the board would have to weigh in on."
Scott York, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said the county already is far behind in road improvements. "Hopefully the next legislative session, they will get down and dirty and serious about transportation matters, particularly in the House," he said. "The Senate tried to address that and truly try to resolve that so there is adequate funding for transportation improvement."
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) said Del. Thomas Rust (R-86) and the other delegates need to get to the bottom of the issue, just as Rust did when the Governor closed the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sterling in 2002. "He has to go down there and ask, 'You are taking 25 percent of our secondary road money on the basis of what?' Our Republican delegates need to get our money back."
Rust said the reduction would affect both suburban and urban roads statewide. He plans to make an inquiry with VDOT. "A number of us, including [state] Sen. [William] Mims and others, are on a group looking at transportation issues between now and next session," he said. They are searching for efficiencies and additional public private partnerships.
"We also are going to look at revenue sources," he said. "As I go around the district, the things I hear the most about is education and transportation. I think we did very admiral work in education, but we were not able to do it in transportation this time."