VDOT: City would get quicker return managing all roads

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 5, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

New road construction, including the much-needed Kings Highway Bridge replacement, is likely to happen much faster if the city takes over roadways now maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Connie S. Sorrell, interim director of VDOT’s Hampton Roads district, told the Suffolk City Council Wednesday that her recent recommendation for the city to assume control of the 1,480 miles of state roadways would mutually benefit the city and her agency.

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The state has maintained roads and streets in the former Nansemond County since its 1974 merger with the city.

Suffolk initially approached VDOT about a partial takeover of 550 miles. Earlier this year, the financially-strapped state agency did its own study and recommended a complete takeover.

&uot;It would be in the best interest of the citizens and the council to take all of the city roads into the road system,&uot; Sorrell said. &uot;If you only took the more urban parts of the system, there would still be confusion between developers, citizens and the city.

&uot;It would be more streamlined and reduce inefficiency if the city did a complete takeover rather than doing it bit by bit.&uot;

The city, if it takes over the state roads, would receive state monies to fund maintenance and road construction. The funding formula typically gives cities about three times more money than VDOT allocates for road maintenance and construction, Sorrell said.

The General Assembly needs to make a dramatic increase in funding for new roads, said Sorrell. Until that happens, new road construction – a priority in this rapidly growing city – is drying up across the state.

&uot;VDOT’s first commitment is to maintain its existing network of roads,&uot; said Sorrell. &uot;We can’t build new things if we aren’t able to take care of what we already have.&uot;

Additional funding for the Kings Highway Bridge – which already has a zero safety rating in the state – is not included in VDOT’s immediate future, Sorrell said.

&uot;We don’t have any money,&uot; Sorrell said. &uot;If we did, it would be under construction now.&uot;

VDOT has taken extra precautions with the King’s Highway Bridge, inspecting it every six months – rather than annually – and by reducing the weight limits in an attempt to tractor-trailer traffic off the bridge.

&uot;I have concerns for the bridge tender,&uot; Sorrell said. &uot;I wonder whether something will happen every time a log truck crosses over that bridge.

&uot;As long as cars are the only vehicles to cross, I think it can last for some time.&uot;

She suggested the better enforcement of the weight limit would help preserve the bridge.