VDOT funds could help Winchester
Posted: October 9, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Paying for several projects important to Winchester’s future will be on City Council members’ minds tonight.
At their 7 p.m. meeting, the councilors will consider approving a resolution to seek $8.65 million in revenue-sharing funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for street and sidewalk projects.
The money could be used to pay half of an estimated $17.3 million in projects. Of that total, $12 million targets two projects that could encourage economic development — extending Hope Drive and realigning Papermill Road and Tevis Street, and extending Meadow Branch Avenue.
“It’s nice that VDOT is able to share in the city’s efforts for infrastructure and job development in areas we want to continue to have retail and commercial opportunities,” Council Vice President John Willingham said Monday. “The Tevis Street and Meadow Branch projects could add to our retail tax base.”
Authorizing city staff to apply for money for the potential capital projects could have long-term implications for the city. But three items on tonight’s agenda could yield results before a dime is received from VDOT.
The council also is expected to vote tonight on whether to approve using part of Christianson Familyland in Jim Barnett Park to launch a skateboard pavilion; whether to enter a contract for the partial demolition and stabilization of the former Taylor Hotel; and whether to hire a company to plan, promote and execute special events throughout the city.
The request doesn’t mean the city will get the money it seeks. Perry Eisenach, the city’s public services director, said the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) prioritizes projects and makes allocations.
And even if it did get all of the money, the city isn’t committed to doing all six projects on the list in a year. VDOT, however, expects some project work to begin within a year or it can revoke the allocation.
Once the CTB makes its decision, City Council takes the allocation into consideration when preparing its fiscal year 2014 budget. The work could be spread over several years, Eisenach said, with engineering started in fiscal year 2014 and construction occurring in future years.
“I don’t think anybody would vote to do this if we had to spend all the money in one year,” Willingham said.
Extending Hope Drive and realigning Papermill Road and Tevis Street is a project that would be done to best leverage the potential construction of a bridge connecting Pleasant Valley Road with U.S. 522 (Front Royal Pike). The additional access it would provide should help the continued development of the southern end of Pleasant Valley and enhance truck access to nearby industrial sites.
Eisenach said VDOT has not decided to fund the bridge project yet, but it is a high priority for the region and is desired by both the city and Frederick County.
“This project would get everything in place that the city would be responsible for,” he said. “All that work would be on the west side of Pleasant Valley.”
Willingham said he would expect City Council to make the Hope Drive-Papermill Road-Tevis Street changes in conjunction with the bridge project, not before it.
Extending Meadow Branch Avenue to Amherst Street also is viewed as an economic development project. It would provide access to undeveloped land available for commercial use.
The Meadow Branch project also could be driven by a decision to build a new John Kerr Elementary School on some of that undeveloped land.
If the new school is built behind the existing building on Jefferson Street, however, the city plans to extend Nester Drive to Jefferson to provide additional access to the campus. That $1.5 million project is on the list, too, but likely will be undertaken only if Kerr remains at its present site.
Willingham said it probably will take some “initiating event,” such as a development opportunity or school decision, for work to begin on either the Meadow Branch or Nester Drive projects.
The remaining projects on the list are $800,000 in drainage improvements on Valley Avenue at Whitlock Avenue, $2 million for sidewalk improvements and $1 million for street repaving.
If money is allocated for a project and City Council’s priorities change, Eisenach said funds can be transferred to another eligible project.
— Contact Vic Bradshaw firstname.lastname@example.org