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May 20, 2010

City adopts new strategy to accelerate Belmont Bridge project

Reader comments (0) By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Charlottesville has applied for an additional $1 million in state funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to pay for replacement or extensive repairs to the Belmont Bridge.  Council approved the application this Monday, despite the concerns of Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris that a local match is required.

“This application does mean we’ll have to reallocate $1 million from other capital projects next year if we’re successful to meet an obligation… we were hoping the state would fund,” Norris said. “It’s frustrating because that’s other projects we’ll have to put off to pick up a share of the state’s burden.”

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The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 47.6 and is in need of periodic repairs. The plywood was installed to prevent debris from falling onto Water Street
The funding would come as part of the VDOT revenue sharing program, which was created to encourage communities to invest in their own transportation construction according to the city’s Angela Tucker. The program requires localities to match state contributions on a dollar-to-dollar basis.

The program was formerly opened only to counties, but Charlottesville was invited to participate beginning with the 2008 cycle. Since then, the city has received $2.5 million through the program.

Download Download staff report on Belmont Bridge revenue sharing application

In 2008, Charlottesville received $1 million towards construction of adding a second lane on the ramp that leads from southbound U.S. 29 onto westbound U.S 250 near the Best Buy. That project has a total budget of $4.7 million. At some point, the city will need to appropriate half a million match.

The city has been awarded a total of $1.5 million to pay for part of the Meadowcreek Parkway interchange, and matched it in this year’s updated Capital Improvement Program. In 2010, the city received $500,000 for the extension of Hillsdale Drive and must match that in order to qualify for the funds.

Now city staff are planning a strategy of using the VDOT revenue sharing program to accelerate repairs to Belmont Bridge. The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 47.6 out of 100 and serves an estimated vehicles per day. Last year, the city hired MMM Design to work on new plans for the bridge.

So far, the city has saved up around $4.4 million to pay for the project, but needs to raise another $4.8 million. That requirement has caused city staff to suggest a strategy of using revenue sharing funds, even though additional local money will be required.

“We feel we can get through that by going through this year plus two additional revenue sharing applications,” Tucker said.

Tolbert said if the revenue-sharing strategy is successful, at least $2.7 million in city resources would have to be spent to match state funds. If the money is awarded, Tolbert said construction could start in FY2014.

Without local funding, Tolbert said the project could not begin until 2018 at the earliest. He said even that date might be premature, given VDOT’s declining funding for transportation.

“I don’t think the bridge is in danger of collapse, but there are issues with it, especially the sidewalk on the east side which is in pretty bad shape,” Tolbert said. He said a portion of the city’s street maintenance budget will be spent just to keep it in operation until a permanent replacement can be installed.

Mayor Dave Norris was concerned about finding another $1 million in next year’s CIP to pay for this cycle of revenue sharing, but was even more concerned about having to continue finding local dollars.

“We’ve got a long laundry list of other capital projects like Old Lynchburg Road that we either need to fund or want to be able to fund and we’re going to have to pull from some of those to pay for this project,” Norris said.

Councilor David Brown said the question was whether the bridge’s safety issues would be addressed at all without local investment.

“There’s nothing to indicate that money is going to come loose,” Brown said. “[VDOT is] just eliminating projects.”


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