VDOT Seeks Input

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, May 23, 2013

CUMBERLAND – Some say it would take a miracle for Cumberland to see Route 60 widened into a four-lane highway. And that may be true. But truer still is the fact that the project will never happen until it makes it onto the Virginia Department of Transportation's Six-Year Improvement Program.

And, given Cumberland's track record lately with the Six-Year Program, that's not likely to occur anytime soon.

But, David Meinhard, Chairman of the Cumberland Board of Supervisors, thinks it's worth a try. He wants VDOT to “at least put Cumberland County back on the highway maps…”

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The Six-Year Improvement Program designates transportation projects, beyond simple maintenance, to be done in the upcoming year throughout the State. It consists of work on primary or secondary route projects, safety projects and urban projects.

Currently, there are no primary road projects scheduled for Cumberland County in the upcoming year, according to the draft plan.

So, you think the road to your house is too narrow? Or you want to see some changes made to Route 60? Well, the Commonwealth Transportation Board is conducting a public hearing on the plan for this transportation district on June 4 at Northside High School in Roanoke.

If you decide to make the drive, the meeting will give you a chance to review the proposed plan and provide comments on projects and programs to be included in the program.

If you can't make it to the meeting, but have some thoughts to contribute, Meinhard has volunteered to speak on behalf of the County and its citizens during the meeting in Roanoke.

“I would appreciate any comments that I could get from the public and other board members that we should carry to that meeting about what we need for our transportation programs here in Cumberland County,” said Meinhard, during the May 14 board of supervisors meeting.

He specifically mentioned the need for Route 60 to be made a four-lane road to Cumberland, instead of stopping in Powhatan.

Since 2004, Cumberland has had only one primary road project on the program: reconstruction of a 2.4 mile stretch of Route 45 in northern Cumberland County. According to the 2011 Six-Year Improvement Program, it cost over five million dollars to reconstruct that stretch of Route 45 running from south of Route 683 to Route 611.

Paula Jones, VDOT spokesperson, explained that such projects can stay on the Six-Year Program for years, “it's a matter of building up the money, first of all, until you get to the point where you can build it, actually do the work. It does take years to do the preliminary engineering, the right-of-way acquisition and…then the construction.”

And how are the primary route projects chosen for the plan?

The major primary route projects are generally selected by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, according to Jones. Input from both the public and the locality is very important in those decisions, she said.

Because there are more projects put forward than the Board can afford to approve, Jones said they consider which projects will be for the greatest good.

“Safety improvements, economic support and the public input for particular projects all play into the selections that are made,” Jones explained.

Currently, in the draft Six-Year Program, Cumberland is slated to receive $295,000 in funding over six years for construction projects on secondary roads, according to Jones, which could be used to do such things as upgrade unpaved roads.

How far can just over a quarter of a million dollars go? “It would be a matter of spending money very wisely,” Jones said.

In a recent VDOT press release, announcing a public meeting, it was reported to cost roughly the same amount to pave 0.4 mile of gravel road in Hamilton.

Public hearings are being held throughout the state on the Six-Year Improvement Program over the next two weeks. The program will be finalized by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in June and will go into effect July 1.

Johnson also stated that the Cumberland Board of Supervisors will be holding a public hearing later in the year to help determine citizen input regarding use of funds for maintenance.

Jones wanted to emphasize that public involvement and input are important during that step of the process as well. The board, in conjunction with VDOT, will look at the public input and then “we'll set their priorities,” Jones explained.

The Draft Six-Year Improvement Program can be seen on VDOT's website: virginiadot.org.

Comments on the plan can be submitted to Meinhard via the County administrative offices at info@cumberlandcounty.virginia.gov or by calling (804)492-3625. Meinhard can also be contacted directly at (804)492-4652.

If you would rather speak for yourself, you are welcome to send your comments to the Commonwealth Transportation Board directly via email at Six-yearProgram@vdot.virgin-ia.gov or by mail to: Programming Director, 1401 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219.