Who’s responsible for road maintenance in Suffolk?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2005

Editor, the News-Herald:

Last Sunday’s Suffolk News-Herald article titled &uot;A long road to take over,&uot; by Allison Williams indicated just some of the anticipated problems when the city inherits VDOT’s road maintenance. My past experience with phone calls and visits to both the city of Suffolk and VDOT always leaves me questioning who is the responsible person, office or committee?

In addition to a short documentation on the Kings Highway Bridge, I have listed three minor problems as examples of continuous unresolved maintenance issues.

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A Suffolk News-Herald article dated May 11, 1999, titled &uot;Bridge Plan Concerns Kings Highway residents&uot; stated that the bridge was &uot;scheduled to be replaced in 2003.&uot; Another article dated May 14, 1999 in the same paper &uot;asked the city staff to work with VDOT ton finding an alternative to razing the bridge.&uot;

Although this really just promoted many questions about realignment, heights and city/state liability, nothing was mentioned in either article about the possibility of a temporary or permanent closing of the bridge. Now we look back over the past six years and the unanswered question is still who is responsible?

On July 2 I informed Mayor Bobby Ralph of a deep, 5-foot diameter washout along the southeast end of the Bennetts Creek Bridge. This 3-foot-deep hazard on the street side of the guardrail on Route 17 could easily overturn any sized vehicle with deadly results. I was informed by Eric Nielsen, director of public works, that VDOT would be contacted for repairs. Even after Mayor Ralph confirmed the hazard, it remains unrepaired. So again, I ask, who is responsible?

Also on Route 17, it doesn’t take anyone long to view and occasionally dodge the mass of unsightly and hazardous debris along the entire Mills Godwin Bridge. Once again, who is responsible?

Another example of questionable responsibility is the maintenance along the west end of Kings Highway. A large parcel of former farm land and livestock pasture across from 828 and 840 Kings Highway stretches approximately a half-mile along the road. Thought the resident that travels this road may be unaware of a proposed development, the city has allowed this once well-maintained farm to become grossly overgrown with 7- to 8-foot high weeds. After several calls to Neighborhood Development Services since mid-summer, action was recently taken by contracting a &uot;lawn service&uot; to cut only a 50-foot strip along the road. In the meantime, it appears that someone should be responsible for allowing the majority of acreage to grow out of control.

Whether it be a highway bridge, trash or vegetation, come July 2006 it will be interesting when the city will no longer have VDOT to blame. Regardless of the situation, the question will still remain, who has been responsible for so many maintenance problems? Perhaps this, too, can be blamed on President Bush.

Millard T. Winslow