Unrealistic estimates led to Va. road cuts

Area road projects cut from the state’s six-year transportation plan no longer have estimates attached to them because state officials are now trying to be realistic with their planning.

“Since [estimates] are not in the six-year plan, we can’t tell when they will be built, so there is no way to make a reliable estimate,” said Tom Fahrney, Virginia Department of Transportation manager for Prince William.

Funding for road construction projects in Virginia for the next six years was slashed 29 percent, or $2.9 billion, according to a draft released Wednesday. Funding cuts, higher maintenance costs and unrealistic project cost estimates are to blame, officials have said.

Thrown out is the $97 million estimate for the Gainesville Interchange at U.S. 29 and Interstate 66.

Prior to Wednesday’s announcement of proposed cuts, construction at the interchange had been slated to start in 2005, but now it won’t be built until after 2008. Only engineering and right-of-way purchasing were spared in the plan.

Ditto for the $42 million estimate for the proposed interchange at Va. 234 and U.S. 1. Construction was supposed to start in 2005.

Under the old six-year plan, VDOT had estimated its right-of-way acquisition and engineering costs at $12.5 million. Now, construction is stalled, but funding for right-of-way and engineering costs increased to $18.5 million.

Likewise, construction of the interchange at Va. 123 and U.S. 1 was supposed to begin in 2005 under the old plan. Now, the only state money available for the project is for right-of-way acquisition.

The $33 million project to widen Va. 28 from Godwin Drive to Vint Hill Road won’t start in 2007 as previously planned. As of Wednesday, the project is only funded for preliminary engineering costs. The same goes for widening Vint Hill Road.

But some projects will be fully funded:

the widening of Va. 234 between Manassas and Dumfries will be completed, although the segment from Snowfall Road to Country Club Drive was pushed back six months and won’t begin until next summer;

bridge construction along Va. 123 at the Occoquan River won’t begin until next summer but will be completed;

sound walls on the Va. 234 bypass near the Great Oaks subdivision will be installed this fall;

and Va. 123 in Fairfax County, a major route for Prince William commuters, will be widened.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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