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GETTING THERE: Highway Trust Fund’s future vital to Virginia

ONE QUESTION is on the minds of transportation people everywhere: Will the federal Highway Trust Fund dry up in August?

That’s the $37 billion question as the country’s elected leaders kick sand around in the play box.

It’s the typical left–right brouhaha: Democrats want to raise taxes; Republicans want to slash other programs and use the savings to replenish transportation funding.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the $37 billion federal transportation piggy bank will be empty soon if nothing is done.

And states are worried about losing that money, something that could wipe out and delay road projects across the nation.

What about Virginia and Fredericksburg-area projects?

No projects have been publicly identified for the potential chopping block.

That doesn’t mean anything is safe, either.

Hap Connors, the Fredericksburg-area representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, summed it up:

“We’ve been told that everything is at risk.”

In May, new Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne told Congress there would be “dire” consequences if the federal money dries up.

Hundreds of projects could be “ground to a halt,” he said. Transit systems, mostly rural, could stop running. And, he added, thousands of jobs could be lost.

On the bright side, if all the road construction stops, at least there won’t be any lane closures to deal with.


Got a call from a reader last week wondering if you can ride all terrain vehicles on the road.

The answer is yes and no.

But mostly no.

The state code says it is illegal to drive an ATV on “any public highway, or other public property, except (i) as authorized by proper authorities (ii) to the extent necessary to cross a public highway by the most direct route, or (iii) by law-enforcement officers, firefighters, or rescue squad personnel responding to emergencies.”

The law does allow ATV riders to use a road to get from one trail to another and gives the counties of Buchanan and Tazewell the right to authorize certain ATV use on roads.

There also are certain restrictions for riding ATVs on a road. There is a minimum age (which is 16) and speed limitations (25 mph max) and other sub-sets to the law, but in general you can’t drive an ATV on a public road.

You can find a link to the state law on the Transportation blog.


Not that there’s going to be a lot of patrolling done on unpaved roads, but there is now a uniform, and lower, speed limit for all of them in Virginia.

The maximum speed as of July 1 on unpaved roads was lowered to 35 mph, down from 55 mph.

The General Assembly made the change this year at the request of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The speed limit can be lowered or raised, but must be approved by the state.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436