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Expect little state money for new roads for 20 years

Jerry Davis, of the Northern Neck District Planning Office, is the lead player in the effort to craft a new Westmoreland County Comprehensive Plan. This Monday Davis met with the county’s planning commissioners.
Davis presented a first draft of the new Plan in December 2009, but commission members faulted the draft’s abbreviated transportation section and tasked Davis with developing additional language.
On April 5 Davis delivered the revised draft to the commissioners. The expanded trans-portation section includes information gleaned from a regional transportation study.
“Transportation infrastructure is often the most capital-intensive activity of a locality’s planned development,” the newly worked overview begins.

“Because non-metropolitan areas lack federal-funding set-asides for transportation infrastructures, Virginia counties that are not part of a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) depend on the state to fund any expansion of existing transportation infrastructure.
“Population density is the chief determinant of how transportation dollars are allocated for the construction of new infrastructure across the State of Virginia. And over the next two decades, the population growth rate for Westmoreland County will be less than half that of the state.”
The draft language presents a bleak forecast, relating that “given the county’s current population density and projected growth for the next 20 years, its existing transportation infrastructure is seen as more than adequate by VDOT.” Hopes of converting Route 3 and 202 to four-lane highways won’t likely be realized in the five-year life of the next Comprehensive Plan.
“A 2008 forecast of daily traffic volumes developed as a part of VDOT’s Statewide Planning System (SPS), revealed only one road segment in Westmoreland County that is expected to ‘have a higher growth rate in traffic as compared to forecasted population growth’,” the latest draft remarks.
“That road segment was Flat Iron Road (Rt. 624), from the Richmond County Line to Route 640, with an annual Average Daily Traffic (ADT) Growth Rate of 2.0% for the period 2008-2035.
“For the rest of the county’s roads, the traffic growth patterns, as shown by the SPS data, ‘were mostly in the 1 percent to 2 percent range, as stated by a memorandum presenting the findings. And even Flat Iron Road’s projected ADT was lowered to 1.92 percent, to keep the growth rate on Route 624 consistent with the growth rates of the surrounding roads,’’ the document added.
“In summary,” the draft transportation section warns, “Westmoreland County will have a difficult time securing state funds for transportation projects in the next 20 years – other than for maintenance of the existing infrastructure.”
Seasonal traffic considerations have been added as part of the expanded text. It is noted that Westmoreland County “experiences large increases in the flow of traffic beginning in late spring and continuing through late fall.
“The seasonal increase in traffic is linked to certain days of the week, usually from Thursday evenings through noontime on Mondays, during the season. The peaks of this traffic occur on Friday afternoons or evenings, and again on Sunday afternoons or evenings.
“The impact of seasonal traffic on local road conditions cannot be underestimated, and it has to be further studied in order to properly assess future transportation needs in the county.”
VDOT is charged with maintaining Westmoreland’s 340 miles of primary and secondary roads. Addressing maintenance, the revised draft advises that “state law requires VDOT to assume operation and maintenance responsibilities for up to one-quarter mile of new road in each locality per year, provided the roads are constructed to VDOT specifications.
“This provides an effective mechanism to encourage developers to construct high-standard roads for subdivisions and other projects [in order] to then turn them over to VDOT for maintenance.
“However, this approach creates problems for rural localities where needs are vastly different from those of more urban areas, like Richmond, for which VDOT standards are more applicable.
“County officials should coordinate with VDOT to determine the most appropriate use of general standards.”
Addressing standards, the draft proposes that Westmoreland consider translating into law the standards proposed by the Northern Neck Planning District Commission’s Transportation Corridor Protection Plan.
“This can be accomplished in the form of a Highway Corridor Overlay District (HCOD) that should cover, at least, Route 3,” the new text recommends. Conversion to a four-lane road would follow at some much later date but the suggested mechanism would facilitate the objective stated near the end of the draft Plan’s transportation section.
The new language expressing additional transportation infrastructure needs states a desire “to make all of Route 3 — from route 301 in King George County, to Route 33 in Middlesex County — a four-lane highway.”
The Commission and Davis shared plans to schedule an evening meeting on Monday, May 24, when Davis expects to have completed a revision of the comp plan’s second draft. The material will be presented to the commission and the public and a set of public hearings will be scheduled for some later date.
According to Commission Chair John Felt, the May 24 presentation will provide the new plan’s authors with an opportunity to gather input from county residents.
“I realize this has been a long process, but I feel hopeful that it will be worthwhile,” Felt told Davis Monday afternoon.
County Zoning Administrator and Planning Director Robert Fink delivered new land use section language on April 5 and Davis is expected to incorporate Fink’s material into the new Plan’s text. Additional language is being crafted to lend perspective to the document’s high definition maps and overlays.

Betsy Ficklin
Staff reporter

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