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Va. roads getting a major facelift this summer

Saturday - 7/27/2013, 6:53am  ET

FAIRFAX, Va. - As the summer repaving season is in full swing, the Virginia Department of Transportation is spending new transportation money to fix more roads around Northern Virginia.

"Five years ago we were spending about $40 million on repaving roads, this year we're spending $83 million, so our budget has doubled. I think we're going to have $80 million for several years to come," says Branco Vlacich, VDOT's director of maintenance.

VDOT plans to repave or fix 635 lane miles worth of roadway, costing about $90 million to complete. Lane miles refer to 1 mile in one lane of a road. Almost 75 percent of the work will take place on secondary roads, many of which have been neglected for many years.

"It's pretty bad. A lot of the local roads have not been touched in regards to repaving in some cases for more than 20 years," says Vlacich.

Earlier this year, VDOT repaved Fairfax County Parkway. Now VDOT is involved in a major repaving project on Fox Mill Road from Lawyers Road in Reston to Waples Mill Road in Oakton. The project should be complete in the next couple of weeks.

Vlacich, among others at VDOT, is charged with the task of choosing which roads get repaved, touched up or reconstructed and which have to wait until next year. It's a difficult task because there are so many roads in Virginia and not nearly enough money to repave them in a year.

"I am more hard-pressed to find roads in Northern Virginia that don't need work," says Vlacich when asked to identify some of the worst of the worst.

"There are a lot of roads that need work and the difficult task is the competing demands."

VDOT contracts with Fugro Roadware to drive across the commonwealth using specialized vans with several cams on them, taking pictures of each highway, as well as primary and about 5 percent of secondary roads each year. VDOT maintains most primary and secondary roads in Virginia except for Arlington or Henrico County.

Each road then gets a rating from zero to 100. New roads typically score above 90 and a passing grade is 60. Roads rated between 30 and 60 are prime candidates for repaving and those below 30 require immediate construction work to fix critical issues.

Some roads above 60 will get touch-up work, but the prime candidates for repaving are those in the 30 to 60 range. But Vlacich says with only 34 percent of roads above the acceptable threshold, there are more roads needing repaving than money available each year.

"We consider several factors when deciding what roads get work in a year," says Vlacich.

"Safety of the road is always our top priority. Then we look at how many vehicles use the road each day. We also look and compare the ratings from the company."

Repaving will continue through November. VDOT will then evaluate the new ratings and make plans for April 2014 when repaving will resume.

"We're doing more paving than we've done in a long, long time," says Vlacich.

"We want to apologize to the public, especially for the noise it can cause at night, but I think this is the investment that needs to be made. We're putting this new money to good use."

VDOT has posted a full schedule of all repaving projects online.

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