Road projects cut from Va. six-year plan

Road projects throughout Prince William County were scaled back or axed after state officials trimmed $2.9 billion, or 29 percent, from the commonwealth’s six-year transportation plan, according to a draft released Wednesday.

The cuts became necessary as Virginia revamped its transportation plan to compensate for a shortfall in funding, higher maintenance needs and unrealistic project cost estimates.

Every corner of Prince William saw a project lose construction funding through 2008, including road projects in Gainesville, Manassas and Dumfries, and along both interstates.

Projects that won’t begin in the next six years include the widening of lanes on interstates 66 and 95; reconstructing the interchanges of U.S. 1/Va. 123 and U.S. 1/Va. 234; and relocating a 1-mile section of Vint Hill Road.

The proposed overpass on Wellington Road in Manassas City was eliminated from the six-year plan, while projects like the widening of Va. 234 and Va. 123 — including bridge construction along Va. 123 in Occoquan — were spared.

The Nokesville Road and railroad grade separation project will be delayed until 2006.

Several projects lost funding for construction but kept some funding for engineering and obtaining right-of-way. Those projects include:

reconstructing the Gainesville I-66/U.S. 29 interchange;

widening Va. 28 to six lanes from Manassas to Vint Hill Road;

adding an additional High Occupancy Vehicle lane and regular lane each way on I-66 from Va. 234 to U.S. 29;

adding one lane each way on Interstate 95 from the Newington exit in Fairfax County to the Va. 123 exit;

and U.S. 1 bridge work at Neabsco Creek;

Cut from the six-year blueprint are design plans to build an additional lane on I-66 each way from U.S. 29 to U.S. 15 exit.

“We’re pleased that two very critical projects for the county are fully funded and will be going to construction shortly,” said Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, referring to the widening of Va. 234 and Va. 123.

Connaughton said approval of a county bond issue this fall could offset the devastating cuts to both primary and secondary road projects.

The board chairman added that potential projects that could get the green light should a county referendum pass include widening of Va. 28 and Minnieville Road, acquiring right-of-way along U.S. 1 and improving Linton Hall Road.

“We have to examine every option for revenue at his point,” he said.

Northern Virginians will vote in November on a half-cent sales tax referendum for mass transit and road projects in November. Connaughton said the county board has yet to examine the projects and costs of that package, he said.

A plan for distributing secondary road funding in the county will be developed in a month, said county VDOT liaison Tom Fahrney.

In Virginia, 179 projects were removed from the six-year plan and 117 projects were taken off the construction program and held at the design and/or right-of-way purchase phases.

“VDOT has worked extremely hard to reshape a transportation program that is achievable and realistic,” said VDOT Commissioner Philip A. Shucet. Shucet presented the list of cuts to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which gives final approval to the commonwealth’s transportation plan. CTB member Ulysses “Xerk” White of Manassas could not be reached in Richmond on Wednesday for comment.

He said the state has to reclaim credibility on estimating construction and maintenance costs: “I have set the bar at flawless execution.”

The six-year plan will use $1.2 billion in FRANs, a type of debt incurred against future federal funding. Shucet said this debt has minimized the current pain but leaves the need for more revenue in the future.

“This is not a cure … there is more to do,” he said. The state will have to pay $250 million a year to pay off the debt, he said.

“We can’t continue in the fashion we’re in currently and expect to maintain a balanced program,” he said. “There is the threat of continued imbalances if something’s not done on either the revenue side or the expenditure side.”

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