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VDOT holds public hearing on funding plan

If one of the two bridges spanning the New River on Interstate 81 should have to be closed “we’ll have a major transportation problem.”
That was the message Pulaski County Administrator Peter Huber conveyed last night to members of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.
The CTB held a regional public hearing in Edwards Hall on the New River Community College campus last night to get public input into proposed new cuts in VDOT’s 2009-2014 Six Year Improvement Program.
Among the proposed cuts is funding that would replace the two interstate bridges over the New River between Pulaski and Montgomery counties.
Huber urged the board to at least leave enough funding in the SYIP to replace one of the bridges.
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer told the group that this is the first time in history VDOT has revised its SYIP in mid-year.
The revision is part of the CTB’s effort to address $2.6 billion in state and federal transportation revenue shortfalls over the next six years. According to Homer, another $400 million in reductions need to be made before the plan is finalized.
He said the revision is in response to the economic condition of the nation. He added, “We have a professional and moral obligation to live within our means.”
Homer said VDOT funding comes from three primary sources: gas taxes, sales taxes on new and used vehicles, and automobile registration fees. He said revenue from all three sources have dropped drastically, leaving the department with no choice but to cut projects it had anticipated funding with the lost revenue.
“We face a very dire situation” at both the state and federal transportation level, Homer said. He indicated the department plans for projects based on federal funds it anticipates receiving as reimbursement, but those funds have been drying up over recent years.
Wayne Strickland, executive director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, pointed out that the Salem and Bristol districts are bearing the brunt of proposed cuts under the revised SYIP.
He noted that most (48 percent) of the funding cuts were in the Salem District, while Bristol was closely following.
Other districts are being cut by only about 15 percent and the average cut among all state districts is 24 percent, according to Strickland.
He asked that the CTB try to more equally spread the cuts between districts, so no one area has to suffer more than another.
If cuts were equalized, Strickland said $125 million would be “freed up” for projects in the Salem District.
Huber said he hopes the CTB will take Strickland’s figures “to heart.”
In addition to the I-81 bridges, he also urged VDOT to continue with plans to fund rebuilding of the second bridge across the New River on Route 114.
Huber pointed out that the mountainous terrain makes “bridges across major rivers” a major factor in road funding for the New River Valley.
Huber also asked the CTB to increase locality funding for secondary roads, noting “we already had a 50-year waiting list prior to these cuts.”
David Rundgren, director of New River Valley Planning District Commission, asked the CTB to stress funding projects that will stimulate the local economy. He also supported continued funding of the Route 114 bridge, and widening of Route 114 to Route 460 in Christiansburg.
Delegate Dave Nutter (R-Christiansburg) also spoke in favor of keeping the Route 114 projects intact.
A resident of Virginia 693 in Pulaski County asked the CTB to consider retaining enough funding to widen sections of Route 693 that pose the most danger to motorists. He said the road is “simply too narrow for the amount of traffic on it now.”
Route 693 is one of the projects proposed to be cut from the SYIP.
In order to improve road funding, he suggested the state increase the gas tax.
“But, stay away from the property (real estate) taxes. We’re in a war on that now,” the resident said. “I guess you could do like everyone else and borrow from China.”
Josh Baker of New River Valley Community Services Board, asked the CTB to avoid cutting funding for public transportation, noting that it has the most effect on “those who couldn’t be here tonight” because they didn’t have transportation to the meeting.
In response to the cuts in bridge replacement statewide, Homer said the CTB had a “difficult decision” to make when choosing which bridges not to fund.
He said most of the state’s bridges are reaching the age of “retirement,” but the department doesn’t have funding to replace them.
Homer said that two bridges had to be closed this year because they were beyond repair. He warned officials to expect more closings in the future if revenues do not improve.
Before closing the meeting, Homer outlined other cuts that were made within the VDOT administration in order to save funding for roads. He said 1,000 positions are being cut and a number of offices and services are being ended or consolidated.

VDOT holds public hearing on funding plan

If one of the two bridges spanning the New River on Interstate 81 should have to be closed “we’ll have a major transportation problem.”
That was the message Pulaski County Administrator Peter Huber conveyed last night to members of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Commonwealth Transportation Board.
The CTB held a regional public hearing in Edwards Hall on the New River Community College campus last night to get public input into proposed new cuts in VDOT’s 2009-2014 Six Year Improvement Program.
Among the proposed cuts is funding that would replace the two interstate bridges over the New River between Pulaski and Montgomery counties.
Huber urged the board to at least leave enough funding in the SYIP to replace one of the bridges.
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer told the group that this is the first time in history VDOT has revised its SYIP in mid-year.
The revision is part of the CTB’s effort to address $2.6 billion in state and federal transportation revenue shortfalls over the next six years. According to Homer, another $400 million in reductions need to be made before the plan is finalized.
He said the revision is in response to the economic condition of the nation. He added, “We have a professional and moral obligation to live within our means.”
Homer said VDOT funding comes from three primary sources: gas taxes, sales taxes on new and used vehicles, and automobile registration fees. He said revenue from all three sources have dropped drastically, leaving the department with no choice but to cut projects it had anticipated funding with the lost revenue.
“We face a very dire situation” at both the state and federal transportation level, Homer said. He indicated the department plans for projects based on federal funds it anticipates receiving as reimbursement, but those funds have been drying up over recent years.
Wayne Strickland, executive director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, pointed out that the Salem and Bristol districts are bearing the brunt of proposed cuts under the revised SYIP.
He noted that most (48 percent) of the funding cuts were in the Salem District, while Bristol was closely following.
Other districts are being cut by only about 15 percent and the average cut among all state districts is 24 percent, according to Strickland.
He asked that the CTB try to more equally spread the cuts between districts, so no one area has to suffer more than another.
If cuts were equalized, Strickland said $125 million would be “freed up” for projects in the Salem District.
Huber said he hopes the CTB will take Strickland’s figures “to heart.”
In addition to the I-81 bridges, he also urged VDOT to continue with plans to fund rebuilding of the second bridge across the New River on Route 114.
Huber pointed out that the mountainous terrain makes “bridges across major rivers” a major factor in road funding for the New River Valley.
Huber also asked the CTB to increase locality funding for secondary roads, noting “we already had a 50-year waiting list prior to these cuts.”
David Rundgren, director of New River Valley Planning District Commission, asked the CTB to stress funding projects that will stimulate the local economy. He also supported continued funding of the Route 114 bridge, and widening of Route 114 to Route 460 in Christiansburg.
Delegate Dave Nutter (R-Christiansburg) also spoke in favor of keeping the Route 114 projects intact.
A resident of Virginia 693 in Pulaski County asked the CTB to consider retaining enough funding to widen sections of Route 693 that pose the most danger to motorists. He said the road is “simply too narrow for the amount of traffic on it now.”
Route 693 is one of the projects proposed to be cut from the SYIP.
In order to improve road funding, he suggested the state increase the gas tax.
“But, stay away from the property (real estate) taxes. We’re in a war on that now,” the resident said. “I guess you could do like everyone else and borrow from China.”
Josh Baker of New River Valley Community Services Board, asked the CTB to avoid cutting funding for public transportation, noting that it has the most effect on “those who couldn’t be here tonight” because they didn’t have transportation to the meeting.
In response to the cuts in bridge replacement statewide, Homer said the CTB had a “difficult decision” to make when choosing which bridges not to fund.
He said most of the state’s bridges are reaching the age of “retirement,” but the department doesn’t have funding to replace them.
Homer said that two bridges had to be closed this year because they were beyond repair. He warned officials to expect more closings in the future if revenues do not improve.
Before closing the meeting, Homer outlined other cuts that were made within the VDOT administration in order to save funding for roads. He said 1,000 positions are being cut and a number of offices and services are being ended or consolidated.