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James City County officials have identified three big-budget transportation projects to compete with efforts in other jurisdictions for a chance to be fully funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
The county’s top funding priority is the first phase of the Longhill Road improvements, which includes widening the two-lane road into four lanes, JCC Planning Director Paul Holt said.
Two other priorities have also been identified: the Route 60 Relocated and Skiffes Creek Connector project, a multi-jurisdictional effort to redirect industrial traffic from schools and communities as well as improve access to Fort Eustis; and the Route 60 Multimodal Improvement Project, also known as the Pocahontas Trail Reconstruction Project, which aims to reduce congestion and improve safety on a 2-mile stretch of the road, Holt said.
“These are our three largest projects. It makes the most sense to go after the biggest pots of money to get those funded,” Holt said.
VDOT: Learn More About Route 60 Relocated and Skiffes Creek Connector
These projects will be considered for funding through a new prioritization process established by Virginia House Bill 2, known as HB2, in which the state evaluates which transportation needs are the most important to finance within a six-year improvement plan.
This is the first year the program has been implemented, Holt said.
The state’s goal is to offer significant funding that can complete projects, Holt said, not just small grants to help along the way.
To make the most of this opportunity, Holt said the county is requesting the full $19.8 million needed to complete phase one of the Longhill Road improvements, the entire $153 million for the Route 60 Relocated and Skiffes Creek Connector Project, and between $17 million to $18 million estimated for the Route 60 Multimodal Improvement Project.
Holt said HB2 may be the county’s best opportunity to finance expensive projects like the Route 60 Relocated and Skiffes Creek Connector.
“That’s a project that has been part of our comprehensive plan for a really, really long time and without this HB2 application there’s really no other program that can cover that big of a project gap,” Holt said.
Holt said the state will judge an application based on a project’s technical merits — for example, how it will relieve congestion or improve access — and by how much money participating jurisdictions are willing to put on the table.
James City County has already set aside $1 million for Longhill Road improvements, more than $35 million for the Skiffes Creek Connector and about $700,000 for the Route 60 Multimodal Improvement Project, all of which came from state or federal funds, Holt said.
“What puts our application in a better spot is to try to identify other funding that can be a part of it to increase that cost benefit, because that’s really what they’re looking for as well,” Holt said.
The James City County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution of support for the application during the Sept. 8 regular meeting. During the discussion, Chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan) emphasized the importance of submitting projects that already have some funding.
“They look at it as a joint effort to put roads in our area and spend money both from us and from VDOT,” Hipple said of the state. “You bring money to the table and it will better your chances of moving further with your project than if you have none at all.”
Regardless of the outcome of the HB2 application, Holt said it is critical to seek a variety of funding sources to bring county transportation plans to fruition. County Administrator Bryan Hill agreed, adding that he has proposed setting aside $5 million annually to support transportation projects so the county can improve its likelihood of receiving matching state funds.
“It’s all about our strategic initiatives,” Hill said. “We’re trying to get everything in line and not have the state leave us behind.”
The county must submit its application by Sept. 30 for consideration. Project scores are scheduled to be announced in January.