Assuming control of roads to meet the scrutiny of residents

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Local lawmakers want to know what residents think of a proposal for the city to assume control of 1,480 miles of roadways now maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

&uot;This is one of the most important decisions this council will probably make in office,&uot; said Suffolk Mayor Bobby L. Ralph. &uot;It only happens once in a lifetime and it is not a decision that is reversible.

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&uot;It’s important that we work slowly and give citizens a chance to hear all the facts that are available to us.&uot;

Over the next month, the city is hosting four informational meetings for residents to learn about the proposal. The forums will he held at different sites across the city, including:

-Monday, Nov. 15

Nansemond River High School

3301 Nansemond Parkway

-Tuesday, Nov. 23

John F. Kennedy Middle School

2325 East Washington St.

-Tuesday, Dec. 7

King’s Fork High School

350 Kings Fork Road

-Tuesday, Dec. 14

Lakeland High School

214 Kenyon Road

Each meeting will begin at 7 p.m., with city staff providing a 30-minute presentation.

Additional time will be provided for questions and answers.

Since its 1974 merger with Nansemond County, Suffolk has managed the urban core streets. VDOT has always been responsible for the rest of the roads in the 430-square-mile city.

The city has been discussing the proposal for a couple of years, largely because officials say Suffolk could get more bang for the state buck if the city handles the purse strings. VDOT, in a study recently shared with the Suffolk City Council, endorsed the suggestion.

The formula used to award state road funds to localities for road construction and maintenance would give Suffolk about triple what VDOT spends on the same project, said Connie S. Sorrel, a VDOT aministrator.

Having control of the monies would allow the city to proceed with major road projects in the city’s long-term plan, including the four-laning of Nansemond Parkway, construction of the new Kings Highway Bridge and a Pinner Street flyover, said Public Works Director Eric Nielsen.

Also, the city would be able take care of traffic concerns, such as speed limit changes and traffic signal installation without VDOT’s approval.

Ralph said he is still studying the issue and is not ready to make a recommendation.

&uot;I’m reserving judgment,&uot; he said. &uot;I want to hear from citizens.&uot;

Ralph expects the matter to come before council early next year.

If the council votes to take all the city roadways into its domain, it will take a minimum of 18 months for the transition to occur.