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State ranks low in road-repair spending

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ROAD CONSTRUCTION and repair are very expensive enterprises, and it’s a tough balancing act to divvy out money to both.

It’s especially challenging in an area like ours, where congestion, and development, seems to multiply like rabbits.

A recent study suggests that states need to put more emphasis on road repairs and less on expansion.

The study, conducted by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, says the nation’s roads continue to get worse.

In 2008, the study found, 17 percent of the nation’s roads were in poor shape. In 2011, that figure rose to 21 percent.

The study found that in 2008, 8 percent of Virginia’s roads were in poor shape. Three years later, that figure rose to 18 percent.

From 2009 to 2011, Virginia spent an annual average of $402 million on expansion and $192 million on repairs, according to the study.

That put Virginia in the lower half of the states for road repair spending. The top was North Dakota, which spent 94 percent of its expansion/repair funds on preserving existing roads. Mississippi was last, forking over just 3 percent of that funding to road repairs.

Here is a breakdown of road and bridge conditions in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s 14-county Fredericksburg District, according to the highway department’s “Dashboard,” which you can find online (dash board.virginiadot.org/default.aspx).

Ride Quality (smoothness of the ride):

Interstate: 100 percent

Primary: 92 percent

Secondary: 70 percent

Percentage of non-structurally deficient (i.e., good) structures, including bridges: 91.2 percent

Pavement in fair or better condition:

Interstate: 100 percent

Primary: 84 percent

Secondary: 63 percent

“While our interstate pavement is in good condition, we are targeting paving funds to improve our secondary pavements, on routes numbered 600 and above,” VDOT’s Kelly Hannon said in an email.

She said you can expect to see “an abundance” of paving on area secondary and neighborhood roads over the next two years.

SNOWBLIND

If you can find someone who isn’t sick of snow at this point, you are a rare bird indeed.

VDOT surely would like to move on to spring and put away the plows.

This cold and snowy winter has done a number on the highway department’s snow budget, which this year was pegged at $157 million.

But it’s expected to balloon to an estimated $350 million when final calculations are made.

VDOT has the money—the snow budget is part of the maintenance budget.

Still, the highway department has told the Commonwealth Transportation Board that it will be doing some “belt tightening” as a way to ease the burden from clearing snow from the roads this year.

That tightening, thankfully, won’t include cutting back on pothole repairs.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

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