WASHINGTON — Impassable, muddy Virginia roads are absorbing the gravel that’s been put down, and more snow will make the travel conditions worse, say residents.
It’s the state of things on many unpaved roads that have become a big problem in the first months of 2014, and VDOT is making maintaining them a priority.
VDOT has crews working 12-hour shifts during this week solely to maintain gravel roads says Jennifer McCord, spokeswoman for the organization.
“We want to put down some gravel and fill in where that gravel has washed away and where those roads have become an issue,” she says.
They’re out to repair the worst of the worst. In Loudoun County alone, VDOT maintains 280 miles of gravel roads, McCord says.
The recent line of snow storms are especially felt near Taylorstown, where David Bennett says school buses won’t make the trek down his hill on Tankersville Road because they might not make it out.
“The school buses are getting stuck on them, and the bus drivers putting their lives in jeopardy,” Bennett says.
But he’s also concerned for neighbors who could have a medical emergency or need emergency responders, who, he says, would have trouble making it down the road.
“It will be impassable in a few days. And if we get rain and snow again, it’ll be impassable again by Sunday,” Bennett says.
He sent WTOP a video his son captured of a Loudoun County school bus losing traction on his road last month. The same day, icy road conditions delayed school and some children in the county were stuck on buses for hours due to the roads.
The wretched winter weather hasn’t improved the situation on his street, Bennett says, and he wants better maintenance for unpaved roads such as his.
“This is the time of year that it’s probably at its worst,” says Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, of his district’s unpaved roads.
LaRock represents Virginia’s 33rd district, an area that stretches from Leesburg to Winchester, and says he’s aware of the problems unpaved roads cause residents.
LaRock is pushing a budget amendment through the House that adds conditions on how the state spends money on transportation. His intent is to focus the spending on road maintenance and away from projects outside of his district.
“A huge portion of the money that flows into the Virginia transportation district as a result of last year’s HB 2313, which became law, is going to projects that don’t really affect our roads, particularly in western Loudoun … We want to put the money where the need is,” LaRock says.
In the immediate, VDOT suggests residents report maintenance issues on unpaved roads like they would a pothole, by filing a report. They can do that on VDOT’s website or by calling 800-367-7623.
While some in more urban areas would suggest residents consider paving or widening these roads, LaRock says many in the area prefer to live in a pastoral, unpaved setting. This ends up being a problem when the area is in the thick of winter.
“Widening them to some people means there will be more traffic and development, so they don’t necessarily jump at that option,” he says.
Outside of LaRock’s effort to focus spending on maintaining roads, Del. Randy Minchew, R-Leesburg, is sponsoring a bill that requires VDOT to maintain Loudoun County’s unpaved road network, many of which date to before the Civil War.
Hoping to maintain the integrity of the roads, while also maintaining their viability is the goal of Minchew’s bill.