Our Opinion: Justifying the road vote

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 25, 2005

There are several compelling justifications for Suffolk City Council’s vote Wednesday to take over maintenance of its roadways from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Chief among them is the additional state money that will flow to Suffolk. An increase in responsiveness by bringing road decision making to Market Street from Richmond is another huge benefit. It also makes Suffolk consistent with other cities in Virginia.

However, that VDOT in the past has somehow shortchanged Suffolk is not one of them. Yet that’s just what a Suffolk official was quoted in a newspapers story as having said.

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The Virginian Pilot reported Saturday that Suffolk’s increase in state funding from $7.2 to $15 million will come from the state’s construction fund and will cost other Hampton Roads communities about 4 percent of what they receive.

Eric Nielsen, director of public works, was quoted in the article as stating the report &uot;just shows we weren’t getting our fair share.&uot;

That’s arguable.

The reason Suffolk will receive the increased funding is that its roads will now be classified as &uot;urban&uot; rather than &uot;rural,&uot; which entitles the city to more maintenance money under funding guidelines.

However, the bulk of Suffolk’s roads are urban in name only. Regardless of what they are called, many of these are country roads. As such, money allocated for their maintenance by VDOT was probably consistent with how it funds other country roads.

The bottom line is that Suffolk has not been &uot;shafted&uot; in the past on road maintenance money. We received what was likely an equitable share based on the mostly rural nature of our roads.

What will happen beginning in July 2006 is that Suffolk will begin receiving a much more generous amount of funding than it likely deserves when its roads are compared with those in cities like Norfolk and Portsmouth, which have real urban roads. South Quay is not St. Paul’s Boulevard.