VDOT Devolution Ahead?

By. John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors is grappling with a disturbing new development being contemplated by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

10rel27a (connaughton pix)According to a new study announced at the end of June by Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton the state will, in the near future, be forced to make far-reaching decisions about the state-maintained secondary road system. VDOT controls over 97,000 miles of secondary roads and with a severely limited budget for their maintenance the state may be forced to ‘devolve’ responsibility for all non-primary roads to the localities they serve.

The state assumed control of the secondary road system during the hard times of the Depression era, when most localities were hard pressed to fund even the most vital of local services. Reliance on VDOT for these road services has left many localities – particularly in rural regions – with no experience with nor infrastructure for road building or maintenance.

From a VDOT Media Release:

Secretary Connaughton continued, “Our secondary road program is facing an enormous array of challenges.  VDOT’s current resources are sufficient to do a few missions well or many missions inadequately.  This report provides an excellent overview of the choices ahead.”

Several policy options are discussed in the report, including:

  • Maintaining the current policy on construction and maintenance devolution;
  • Maintaining the current policy with enhanced budgetary priority for secondary road construction and maintenance;
  • Restructuring the secondary road system;
  • Performance-based maintenance contracting on the secondary system;
  • Empowering counties to raise revenues;
  • Imposing devolution on all counties; and
  • Imposing devolution on select urban counties.

Louisa County has approximately 800 miles of existing secondary roads, mostly hard surfaced, and a backlog of more than a dozen unfunded roads projects. With the uncertainty of the future costs for roads looming large before them, the Board of Supervisors is taking a long, hard look at all cost centers from waste management, to public safety, and even the sacred cows of social services and education, with their lion’s share of the budget, to see where any efficiencies might help them avoid the public displeasure that any significant tax increase would undoubtedly bring.

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John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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One response

  1. VDOT can’t afford to maintain their own roads? That’s funny, because they just pulled a couple hundred million out of their hat to build us, here in Albemarle, a brand spankin’ new bypass. Maybe when all of those potholes out in Louisa start getting you down, you can come over to have yourself a smooth ride on some Albemarle pavement. It’s good for the soul.

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