Partially paved road causes dustup
Thirty people with the misfortune of living on a dirt road complained about dust in their eyes and clogged filters in their vehicles during a public hearing in King George County last week.
Two-thirds of the speakers live on St. Paul’s Road, an unlined rural road not far from Caledon State Park.
While their concerns about damage from potholes and the safety of school buses mirrored those of people on other gravel roads, residents of St. Paul’s do have an unusual beef.
Their 1.7-mile road is paved for almost a mile, then unpaved for half a mile, then paved again. It runs from the intersection of State Route 206 and State Route 218 to a dead end.
There are 10 houses on the dirt-road portion of St. Paul’s—some of which sold for $500,000. Most of the land surrounding the gravel roadway is heavily wooded and sparsely populated.
Where the pavement picks up again at the far end of the road, the woods open up to the Scenic Ridge subdivision and more homes on large lots.
No one seems to know why asphalt trucks missed the middle section of the road or who is responsible for their absence, but Supervisor Joe Grzeika said he wants county officials to find out.
“I’ve been scratching my head on how it happened,” he told the crowd of 80 people at the May 21 meeting. “That’s just not right.”
22 MILES OF DIRT ROADS
Residents spoke at a public hearing on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year plan for secondary roads in King George.
St. Paul’s is the No. 1 priority on VDOT’s list of unpaved roads. There are 26 dirt roads in King George, totaling 22 miles.
St. Paul’s also is considered the most unsafe for school buses, according to Ray Newton, transportation supervisor for King George County Schools.
But in VDOT’s six-year plan, St. Paul’s is second on the overall to-do list. First is a $1.77 million project to widen a portion of Salem Church Road, in the southern part of the county, and to fix its hazardous ditch and slope.
As St. Paul’s residents have learned, just because their road is on the list doesn’t mean it will be paved any time soon.
“We moved here 7 1/2 years ago and our builder said the road would be paved in one year,” said Billie Beaudette, whose property is at the beginning of the dirt road.
The financial fact of the matter is VDOT doesn’t have the money to take care of projects—even its priorities—in a timely fashion.
The state agency allocated $75,785 for new road work in the county this year and even less in 2014. It might be another four years before St. Paul’s does away with dirt.
“When I see 2017 coming up there [as the date for the project], I got a problem with that,” said the Rev. Cornell Glascoe. “Let’s get something happening.”
VDOT’s average cost to pave a dirt road is $75 per foot, or $396,000 per mile, said spokeswoman Kelly Hannon. Expenses vary depending on the road’s condition, and the work needed on St. Paul’s Road is estimated at $225,000.
AS BAD AS IN AFGHANISTAN
Several residents asked King George to spend county money on roads instead of waiting for VDOT. Roads are the state’s responsibility—not a locality’s—but through a program called revenue sharing, counties can speed up the process of projects.
Localities pay half the costs and the state pays the other half. In 2013, the city of Fredericksburg and the counties of Culpeper, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Westmoreland all participated in revenue sharing.
Combined, the localities put up $12.47 million for road work, ranging from $10 million spent by Stafford to $87,112 by Westmoreland.
Caroline, King George and Orange counties did not participate.
At the public hearing, St. Paul’s Road resident Ralph Lee wondered why comparably sized Westmoreland County is taking advantage of a program when King George is not.
“Good for them, bad for us,” he said. “It makes me sick to think our hard-earned wages go to support another county’s roads.”
Sylvia Hudson, a resident of St. Paul’s Road, said she didn’t expect the King George supervisors to pave all the dirt roads in one budget year.
“But let’s make a plan,” she said.
Michael McGraw, a disabled veteran who served in Afghanistan, said that country’s roads “are very equal to St. Paul’s Road. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.”
He said if the county can spend $3.6 million on the football stadium at King George High School, “We can find the money somewhere” to pave dirt roads.
‘JUST DO IT’
Grzeika and Chairman Dale Sisson Jr. don’t support revenue sharing. Grzeika said he doesn’t know where the county would find money in its budget for roadwork.
Supervisor John LoBuglio doesn’t support the program, either. He said larger, urban counties get in a bidding war over whose projects will be done first, with some localities offering to pay up to 70 percent of the costs.
Supervisor Cedell Brooks Jr. said he didn’t know enough about the program.
Supervisor Ruby Brabo was the only supervisor who supported revenue sharing. When she first mentioned it in March 2012, other supervisors didn’t believe VDOT would match the county’s offering.
“I heard what you said,” Grzeika told her at the time. “It’s just not plausible.”
Residents of St. Paul’s Road believe it is.
“I know you’re not in the business of paving roads, but you are in the business of protecting King George County,” said Cheryl Beyer, who also lives on St. Paul’s Road.
She encouraged the supervisors to start setting aside money to pave roads.
“Do it, just do it and get it over with,” she said.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425