City takeover of roads put to the community

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 26, 2004

Suffolk, as it stands now, will receive $30.6 million for road projects over the next 22 years.

But if the Suffolk City Council moves ahead with a proposal to take control of 1,480 miles of roads now maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the city will take in $121 million over the same time span, said Eric Nielsen, the city’s public works director.

That was just part of the information that Nielsen shared with the four residents who showed up at John F. Kennedy Middle School last Tuesday to learn more about the proposed road takeover.


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Since its 1974 merger with Nansemond County, Suffolk has maintained 86 miles of streets within the 2.5-square-mile urban downtown .


has taken care of the roads in the city’s remaining 427 square miles.

Suffolk – now one of the fastest-growing cities in Virginia – has outgrown its existing arrangement with VDOT, Nielsen said.

&uot;It’s been a challenge,&uot; said Nielsen. &uot;For the last 10 years, the city has been pushing hard for VDOT to maintain a higher level of service.

&uot;But right now, we are treated like counties and maintained with the rural levels of service. Counties are less expensive to maintain.&uot;

Whaleyville businessman Roger Leonard indicated concern that the increase in road funding would go for projects in the downtown area. On Tuesday, he called for city leaders to create a prioritized plan of road projects spread throughout the city for funding if the change is made.

The Suffolk City Council is expected to vote on the road takeover in January 2005, a guideline suggested by VDOT. If council supports the proposal, it would take approximately 18 months to fully implement, Nielsen said.

But in the meantime, city lawmakers want residents to thoroughly understand the proposal.

&uot;I was disappointed we didn’t have more people come out Tuesday,&uot; said Mayor Bobby Ralph. &uot;We are trying to draw the public in and provide an opportunity for them to learn more about key issues in the city.

&uot;In the past, we have been criticized for not doing enough to get the word out to the public on major issues,&uot; said Ralph. &uot;That’s one reason we are holding these forums.&uot;

He is hopeful residents will take advantage of the three remaining meetings to learn more about the proposal.

Future meetings include:

-Dec. 1, at the Whaleyville Community Center, Whaleyville Boulevard

-Dec. 7,

at King’s Fork High School,

350 Kings Fork Road

-Dec. 14, at Lakeland High School,

214 Kenyon Road