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With no money, upgrades eyed down the road

Despite having no money for road construction programs for three more years, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting with the Virginia Department of Transportation Thursday in Halifax to review the county’s current Six-Year Road Plan.

Discussions centered around proposed changes to the current road plan as well as priority unpaved road projects and requirements to consider roads for inclusion in the priority listing.

Much of the discussion Thursday focused on rural rustic road improvements which Hamilton described as “the biggest bang for the buck” costing $135,000 per mile.

Supervisors also heard about upgrades proposed by the Route 501 Coalition for making improvements to Route 501 North and requests made by VDOT officials and law enforcement to the Transportation Safety Commission.

Board members also listened to public comments from three citizens about county roads.

VDOT Residency Maintenance Manager Kenneth Martin was joined by fellow VDOT employees Jay Craddock, Randy Hamilton and Stan Murphy at Thursday night’s meeting.

Martin started the night’s discussion telling supervisors no significant money would be available for Six-Year Road Plan construction until 2017 when $190,000 in formula funds for secondary state roads is included in the plan.

Until then, the only funding comes from an annual telefee of $82,338 in 2014, and $85,902 in 2015 and 2016.

Proposed transportation road fund monies increase in 2017 to $304,691 and again in 2018 to $359,184. In 2019, total annual funding proposed is $416,433 for a total of $1,334,450 in the Six-Year Plan that covers 2014-2019.

Included in the Six-Year plan is construction to a 1.1 mile section of Meadville Road (State Route 642) from .663 mile north of Route 57 to .654 mile south of Highway 501.

The construction job was advertised for bids last month, and bids are due Nov. 20. Once the bids come in, Martin said it will be 30 days before a contract is awarded and work begins on the $6,592,661 project with a starting date set for Dec. 10.

Also included in the plan is three-tenths of a mile resurfacing of Buckskin Trail (State Route 695) with construction set to begin in late spring or early summer of next year.

Using state forces and hired equipment, this job will include surface treating a non-hard surface of three-tenths of a mile from State Route 624 to the dead end at a cost of $69,079.

The final job on the plan involves replacing a bridge on Wolftrap Road (State Route 716).

The bridge replacement and approaches over the Banister River are anticipated to cost $2,126,789 and is expected to be funded in 2019, according to Martin.

VDOT officials urged the supervisors to also consider prioritizing a listing of unpaved roads for the Six-Year Plan.

Currently on the unpaved priority list, VDOT has given priority to the following projects which supervisors will review, consider making changes to and return to VDOT by January:

Peaks Trail (State Route 774) in ED-1

 Pitt Trail (State Route 916) in ED-3

 Jeremy Elmo Creek Road (State Route 820) in ED-6

 Whitlow Trail (State Route 858) in ED-7

 Deer Ridge Trail (State Route 771) in ED-3

 Boxwood Road (State Route 761) in ED-1

 Hite Lane (State Route 955) in ED-7

 Walker Trail (State Route 806) in ED-5

 Clark-Jordan Trail (State Route 830) in ED-6

The list as prioritized by VDOT includes routes from a previous priority listing.

Routes that were completed and routes with traffic counts below 50 were removed, and new routes with traffic counts over 50 were added.

During the meeting, ED-1 Supervisor J. T. Davis asked why the rural rustic standard speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

Craddock explained all rural rustic roads are required to have that speed limit according to state code unless a speed study is conducted finding a change is warranted.

ED-8 Supervisor W. Bryant Claiborne questioned why Riverdale Lane fails to qualify for rural rustic improvements, and Martin explained that road currently is not in the highway system.

Craddock said it can be brought into the system by becoming a rural addition, but first it would have to be brought up to standards.

Supervisor Chairman Tom West, who represents ED-2, questioned why State Route 626 has never been included on the priority list.

He pointed out years ago when J.M. Huber located on that road, promises were made to upgrade the road, but these improvements have never been made.

Martin, who also lives in that community, estimated the project would cost approximately $15 million and has not been upgraded because VDOT lost formula money about the time the promises for improvements were made.

After reviewing the projects included in the Six-Year plan with supervisors, VDOT officials asked the board members to prioritize their listings and return the list to VDOT by the first of the year.

Also discussed Thursday evening were improvements slated for Highway 501 in Halifax County.

Supervisor Davis, who also serves on the Route 501 Coalition composed of representatives from Halifax, Bedford and Campbell counties, said he believes the amount of traffic on Highway 501 justifies four-laning the road.

However, he noted he would probably never see it in his lifetime.

In the meantime, he said the coalition is working to make improvements and referred to two projects that have been fully funded.

Surveying is currently being conducted on 501 in the Rosa community at the road’s intersection with State Route 642 where $2 million in safety improvements will be made.

Also $1.3 million in upgrades have been approved for the intersection of State Routes 40 and 632 at the Four Forks intersection in the northern end of Halifax County.

Davis said the coalition is pushing to have more passing lanes installed on what he described as “a very, very dangerous highway.”

“A passing lane is especially needed close to where the six vehicle pileup occurred recently,” he added. 

However, he said the cost for the passing lanes has been estimated at $16 million.

“We are working diligently and receiving input from citizens. We do have a plan in place,” he said. 

Should any extra money become available, Davis said, the coalition plans to have in place “shelf ready” projects.

Craddock told board members VDOT also is looking at possible locations along Highway 501 that can be upgraded to pullovers for school buses.

“We’re looking for wide shoulders where we can put stone down,” he said.

Another problem addressed Thursday evening involved increased amounts of logging truck traffic on county roads that were not built to withstand the heavy truck traffic.

Davis described the situation as “a major problem.”

Martin said VDOT has attempted to address the logging truck problem by placing truck restrictions on roads.

However, he said the solution seems to simply shift the problem from one road to another road.

“We agree we do have a problem there, and we will continue to look for solutions,” Martin said.

Before hearing from the public, supervisors and VDOT representatives discussed requests made to the Transportation Safety Commission at its last meeting.

These requests included the following:

 Barbara Bass asking VDOT about the sign light at the Route 58/501 intersection at Riverdale.

 South Boston Police Chief Jim Binner discussing the traffic turn light at Route 501 toward Greens Folly stating he felt the left turn signal would only allow five cars to complete a turn which is causing traffic pileups and also drivers to go past the intersection and make U-turns.

 Earl Womack inquired about VDOT possibly identifying and considering pullover shoulder sections along Highway 501 north so buses could pull over long enough to allow traffic to proceed past them rather than creating a pileup of vehicles following the buses.

 Mary Katherine Carr asked if and when Buckskin Trail might be hard surfaced.

 Steve Meadows inquired about the new turn lane on Hamilton Boulevard in South Boston.

 Nancy Hazelwood asked if VDOT would look into lowering the speed limit on Scottsburg Road (Route 344) to the town limits of Scottsburg.

 Supervisor J. T. Davis asked Virginia State Police about recent logging and chip truck traffic and accidents on Route 40.

 Barbara Bass also made additional comments to Virginia State Police concerning chip trucks and debris falling from them.

 Davis expressed concern to VDOT about tractor-trailer traffic on Hog Wallow Road and motorists’ safety, noting the road is very curvy and narrow.

At the end of the meeting, supervisors and VDOT officials heard from three county citizens, each seeking improvements to their roads.

Lenora Harrison of Cornic Lane asked that the road located off State Route 57 be paved to improve the quality of life for the 13 homeowners living on that road.

Josephine Scearce, who has lived on Highway 501 North for 40 years, said she fears for her safety each time she turns off the road into her driveway.

“You put the signal light on, and they don’t want to slow down,” she said.

She also asked VDOT to consider lowering the speed limit to 45 mph on State Route 610.

Martha Buchanan, also a resident of Highway 501 North, said 10 wrecks have occurred near her home over the past 22 years she has lived there.

“We need something done. It’s very dangerous. Traffic has almost doubled since I’ve been there,” she said.

 Following the joint meeting with VDOT, supervisors on the building and grounds committee went behind closed doors in a special called meeting to consult with legal counsel and discuss awarding a public contract.

No action was taken when they emerged from closed session.