VDOT plan shows wider roads by 2035
Posted: January 18, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Virginia residents have until early February to review and submit comments on a long-range state transportation plan, which includes numerous local projects.
The 2035 Virginia Surface Transportation Plan is a statewide philosophy to guide the Virginia Department of Transportation’s planning and development of projects, according to Terry Short Jr., planning manager for VDOT’s Staunton District.
The Staunton District includes Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.
“There’s a host of projects that are identified per district and they’re developed to marry up to the most current federal [transportation] regulations,” Short said on Wednesday. “This plan marries up to those federal requirements in terms of performance measures and basically identifying those projects that make the most sense for each community that are going to improve somebody’s life and their mobility.”
Projects being recommended locally include widening Millwood Pike (U.S. 50) to six lanes for 7.17 miles from Winchester’s eastern limit to the Clarke County line; widening Berryville Pike (Va. 7) to six lanes for the 4.67 miles from Winchester’s eastern limit to Clarke County; completing the Tevis Street Extension in Winchester and Frederick County; and widening a nearly three-mile section of Interstate 81 to eight lanes between exits 315 and 317, according to the document.
VDOT used already established planning documents from localities, local planning organizations like the Winchester-Frederick County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and other sources to determine recommendations in the transportation plan, Short said.
“You’re not going to see new projects that have not been previously talked about with the public,” he said. “What we do is we encapsulate those [local plans] so that it elevates the plan to a statewide level to say, ‘These are the most important projects for these regions.’”
While some recommendations call for widening roads in the area, Short emphasized that the document is not designed to increase traffic volume.
“It’s primarily focused on how do we improve safety, how do we improve economic vitality,” he said. “It’s a return on investment.”
Martha Shickle, with the Winchester-Frederick MPO, said on Thursday that the planning organization worked closely with VDOT when the state agency created the transportation plan. One of the reasons for working together, she said, was to give the MPO a “clear idea” of what the state wants to do for transportation planning and to give the area an advantage when competing for state and federal transportation funding.
With the emphasis on transportation performance measures, the Virginia Surface Transportation Plan “goes further” than the state has before to ensure the state’s transportation investments reap maximum benefits, Shickle said.
Winchester Planning Director Timothy Youmans said on Thursday that the key to the transportation plan “is that the recommendations that are in that plan be consistent with the adopted MPO plan, or at least with what the city has more recently prioritized.”
The Tevis Street Extension — which would stretch East Tevis Street from where it ends now, near its intersection with South Pleasant Valley Road, across I-81 to Front Royal Pike (U.S. 522) — is one of the city’s top priorities, Youmans said.
The project — which Youmans joked is needed yesterday — would provide both enhanced economic development for the area and a smoother traffic flow in the southern end of Winchester.
Short said that even though Clarke County has transportation issues that are important to the county, those issues did not fit the criteria of “high-level, performance-based” projects VDOT wanted to include in the recommendations.
While VDOT officials believe the recommended projects in the transportation plan are worthwhile, Short said it’s unclear what portions of it will be implemented. He added that funding will be the primary obstacle.
Once the plan is finalized, VDOT will present it to the governor and secretary of transportation as a direction for surface transportation in the state, Short said.
The Virginia Surface Transportation Plan is available for review and comment online at vtrans.org.
— Contact Matt Armstrong at email@example.com