4.3 – Infrastructure Assistance Available to Town Governments
Towns in Virginia have access to numerous state and federal assistance programs for the construction and maintenance of roads. State programs are managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and include Revenue Sharing, Rural Rustic Roads, Urban Construction Initiatives, and Urban Highways Programs. The Land Assistance Division (LAD) of VDOT develops policy and provides guidance for programs that impact work performed by localities and serves as a liaison to local governments.
Specifically, LAD manages a program to provide funding for road construction and maintenance in Virginia’s cities and towns. The program is called the «Urban Construction and Maintenance Program» and is critical to the many towns in Virginia that qualify. The funding for this program comes from VA and federal gasoline taxes with the maintenance part of the program not seeing any funding cuts since its inception more than 25 years ago. There are a total of 25,716 lane miles in the VDOT Maintenance Program that received roughly $304 million of funding in FY2010. Cities and towns receive funding from the program solely based on road lane mileage and not on any political considerations — they receive $17,180 per lane mile of arterial roads and $10,087 per lane mile of local streets. Under this program, VDOT makes payments directly to towns satisfying any of the following eligibility requirements (VA Code 33.1-23.3):
- towns of more than 3,500 population according to the latest U.S. Census;
- towns which have obtained a population of more than 3,500 since the last U.S. Census;
- towns which maintained certain streets under VA Code 33.1-80 (repealed 30 June 1985); or,
- the towns of Wise, Lebanon, and Altavista.
Payments are made to eligible towns for roads and streets meeting any of the following criteria:
- at least fifty feet (50') of right-of-way and at least thirty feet (30') of hard surface;
- at least eighty feet (80') of right-of-way and at least twenty-four feet (24') of hard surface plus approved plans for the addition of at least twenty-four feet 24' of hard surface within the same right of way;
- cul-de-sac with at least forty feet (40') of right-of-way and standard turnaround;
- paved and in the VDOT Primary or Secondary System prior to annexation or incorporation;
- eligible for and receiving payments under laws in effect on June 30, 1985;
- functionally classified as a local street and constructed on/or after January 1, 1996; or,
- eligible local streets with speed control devices within the right-of-way.
There are certain exemptions by Code to the criteria for roads and streets established above. One such exemption is for eligible towns in which «70% or more of developable land has a natural grade of at least 20%». This exemption is often referred to as the mountainous terrain standard. Such towns may have a minimum right-of-way width of forty feet and hard surface width of eighteen feet on collector roads and local streets.
The Urban Construction and Maintenance Program funding would be critical to an incorporated town of Massanutten. The road system within Massanutten Village is roughly 40 years old and will need significant maintenance work in the near future. This program will justifiably help defray costs to repave roads that have in recent years been used more and more by the general public. In order to qualify for the funding, an incorporated town of Massanutten would have to meet the 3,500 population requirement at some point in the future. Or, an incorporated town of Massanutten could petition the Virginia General Assembly to exempt Massanutten from this requirement like the towns of Wise, Lebanon, and Altavista — this petition could be done simultaneously and linked with the request to the VA General Assembly for town incorporation via enactment. It is very important to note that the towns of Wise, Lebanon, and Altavista were all exempted in 1990 and these towns have still not reached a population of 3,500, as of the 2010 Census. The exemption for eligibility is justified for an incorporated town of Massanutten considering the fact that it has a total of 2,692 housing units for a population of 2,291 (2010 U.S. Census) which is much greater than any other town in Rockingham County to include the Town of Bridgewater which has a total of 2,120 housing units for a population of 5,644. The relatively large number of housing units in Massanutten includes more than half being hotels and timeshare units, many of the over 1,200 timeshare units are regularly occupied by up to twelve (12) people which enlarges the actual population of the community on any given day. This exemption for eligibility is also justified for an incorporated town of Massanutten based on the fact that it had over 2.44 million vehicles entering the community in 2010. If the program is to help fund maintenance of roads used by the public, then 1.32 million vehicles entering the Massanutten community from the general public in 2010 certainly qualifies.
If an incorporated town of Massanutten meets the population requirement or by a special exemption of the Virginia General Assembly, the specific payments for lane miles in an incorporated town of Massanutten would then solely depend on meeting the Code of Virginia criteria for roads and streets. Many roads within Massanutten Village were built in the early 1970’s to a mountain road standard of construction. This means that almost all collectors and local streets have a hard surface of eighteen (18) feet in width with a right-of-way of forty (40) feet in width. This is equivalent to the Code of VA criteria exemption for towns in which «70% or more of developable land has a natural grade of at least 20%». It is believed that Massanutten Village meets this criteria exemption and so would an incorporated town of Massanutten. However, the procedure for verifying this criteria exemption is not clear in the Code of Virginia or the Virginia Administrative Code — and, was not clear to VDOT either (according to the VDOT LAD). If an incorporated town of Massanutten needed a General Assembly exemption for the 3,500 population requirement, it was strongly recommended that a similar exemption be also obtained for the mountainous terrain standard which could be proven by analysis costing less than $10,000 by the original (1970) surveyor of the Massanutten community.
If Massanutten were incorporated into a town and it was determined to be an eligible town of mountainous terrain for the VDOT Urban Maintenance Program, the incorporated town would be entitled to receive annual funding exceeding $750,000 for the roughly 64.4 lane miles of qualifying roads. These 64.4 lane miles of qualifying roads include some in Massanutten Village which would be turned over by the MPOA Board. Massanutten Drive and Del Webb Drive which are internal to Massanutten Village and Route 644 (Resort Drive) which is external to Massanutten Village would both qualify as arterial roads (entitled to receive $17,180 per lane mile in the FY2010 program) and the remaining roads would qualify as collector roads or local streets (entitled to receive $10,087 per lane mile in the FY2010 program). The $750,000 in annual funding could be expended for such things as road paving, snow removal, and roadside maintenance to include costs for associated administration, labor, materials, and capital equipment.
If Massanutten were incorporated into a town and VDOT determined that it did not meet the mountainous terrain standard or that MPOA declined to transfer its subdivision streets to the town, the incorporated town would still be entitled to receive VDOT funding under the Urban Maintenance Program. Routes 644 (Resort Drive), 645 (Michael Lane), and 646 (Bloomer Springs Road) already qualify because they are paved and in the Secondary System prior to the incorporation. Also, Massanutten Drive (4.5 lane miles) is a qualifying arterial road because it currently meets the standard for functionality and the standard for hard surface and right-of-way widths. All of these roads would entitle an incorporated town of Massanutten to receive annual VDOT Urban Maintenance Program funding of roughly $250,000.
It is important to understand that the annual Urban Maintenance Program funding could be supplemented by specific project funding for things such as a future VDOT Six (6) Year Improvement Program to upgrade Del Webb Drive from the Massanutten Mountain Overlook to Happy Valley Road or a future VDOT Revenue Sharing Construction Program to extend McGahey Lane to Massanutten Drive as a second entrance into Massanutten Village. Additionally, there are other miscellaneous state grant programs that are available to towns related to road maintenance. For example, the VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provides funding grants to localities under non-competitive grants based on population and road miles. These grants have been awarded annually, since 1980, for local litter prevention and local recycling program implementation, continuation, and/or expansion. Massanutten Village currently has an extensive recycling program and an incorporated town of Massanutten would therefore be eligible for such a grant. Last year, the town of Bridgewater received a $3,000 grant from this program.
Finally, an incorporated town of Massanutten could have access to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) assistance programs. These federal programs include funding for road construction, bike paths, and hiking trails. The specific amount of U.S. DOT funding for an incorporated town were deemed beyond the scope of this study.