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Culpeper outer loop road project needs another $3 million

Culpeper’s outer loop bypass project, slated to go out for bids on July 1, has been put on hold because of a dramatic increase in cost estimates.

That increase could amount to as much as $3 million more than the original $15 million project estimate, according to VDOT relocation specialist Mike Heflin.

Culpeper County has been banking VDOT revenue-sharing dollars for almost a decade to fund the loop road that would tie Ira Hoffman Lane to the Sperryville Pike along the northwestern perimeter of the town of Culpeper.

VDOT officials in Richmond determined early in 2013 that those funds, which total about $15 million, were sufficient to build the four-lane highway needed primarily to move commuters who work in Northern Virginia to the half-dozen new subdivisions that were built on the west side of Culpeper during the construction boom.

Right-of-way purchases began the first of this year and five of the 33 properties needed to build the 1.5-mile road have been bought, Heflin said.

Then late last week, Jimmy Street, senior right-of-way agent for Rinker Design Associates, said he was told to stop all negotiations for the project. Now the future of the road hangs in limbo until the Board of Supervisors decides what to do.

Heflin said that it is his understanding that fill dirt and bridge construction are the primary culprits that have inflated estimates for the road, officially known as State Route 784.

It was originally thought that dirt from parts of the project site would be sufficient to bring the highway to its optimal height, especially where it will pass over Balds Run, Heflin said. Now VDOT feels it will be necessary to buy fill dirt and haul it to low areas.

Bridges over Balds Run, which often floods in heavy rain or when snow melts, and one of its tributaries will also cost more than originally thought.

“I don’t know how they missed [the estimates] so much,” Heflin said.

County Planner John Egerston said he first heard about the holdup during a meeting late last week. He said he will take his findings to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday.

“We need to make some decisions as to how to move forward,” Egerston said.

“The board has options,” said Heflin. “It’s up to them as to what they’re going to do.”

Those options include coming up with the extra $3 million, reducing the highway’s width from four lanes to two or purchasing the rest of the right-of-way now and revisiting the project in a few years, Heflin said.

Heflin added that the original timetable will be off by only a week or two if a decision to come up with the needed funds is made Tuesday.

“But until the county looks at it, the project is on hold,” Heflin said.

Donnie Johnston: