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Lynchburg council to seek VDOT funds, looks ahead to major Smart Scale projects
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Lynchburg council to seek VDOT funds, looks ahead to major Smart Scale projects

A number of road improvement projects are on the horizon in Lynchburg, with the city both seeking and securing funding to tackle major infrastructure projects that range from road reconstruction and widening to interchange improvements at key city corridors.

Last week, Lynchburg City Council unanimously approved the submission of a grant funding application for revenue sharing and Transportation Alternatives Projects programs through the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Any projects awarded revenue sharing program funds would require a 50/50 match between VDOT and the city, and those awarded TAP funding require a 20% match from the city.

The application is due Oct. 1. Recommendations and approval would be made in the spring and summer of 2022.

Of the five projects submitted for the revenue share program, four of them previously had passed through council and subsequently been awarded funding by VDOT for fiscal year 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, VDOT delayed the availability of these funds for several years, until fiscal year 2025, and the projects would be underfunded due to inflation.

Lee Newland, city engineer, said council voted to resubmit those projects for additional funds and, if awarded, those funds would be available in fiscal year 2027.

These projects include the widening and reconstruction of Breezewood Drive, priced at $9.4 million, and of Lakeside Drive, at $3.9 million. Also proposed are improvements at the Link Road intersection with Rivermont Avenue, $2.9 million; and Wards Ferry Road turn lanes at Atlanta Avenue, $2.5 million.

New projects in the application included Hollins Mill Road and bikeway improvements. That project encompasses the replacement and enhancement of the low water bridge underneath the Hollins Mill bridge that connects the Blackwater Creek bikeway with the Point of Honor Trail.

This project would replace the bridge and provide bike and pedestrian enhancements when the bridge is not accessible. Though the project carries a total price tag of about $9.9 million, the grant application was for $1.9 million, with a city match of the same amount, and additional money for the project would need to be applied for in future grant funding cycles.

All five projects in the grant submission totaled a $5 million ask from VDOT.

Also included in the grant application was a request for about $653,000 for phase one of a sidewalk at the Lynchburg Center for Industry located off Graves Mill Road.

These programs are only one piece of the city’s partnership with VDOT. Last year, the city applied for Smart Scale funding for two major projects — the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Wards Ferry Road, CVCC Campus Drive and Harvard Street; and interchange improvements at Candlers Mountain Road and the Lynchburg Expressway.

Smart Scale is the Virginia Department of Transportation’s method of competitively evaluating highway construction projects, and both were approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in June.

Rick Youngblood, Lynchburg district planning manager with VDOT, said both projects have been vying for funding through Smart Scale for years.

Totaling $65.7 million — $29.1 million of which is Smart Scale funds, and the rest is State of Good Repair funds, which provides money for bridges in poor condition — Youngblood said the Candlers Mountain Road interchange project is one of the biggest projects that has been funded in the area.

It has been a bottleneck area in the city for more than 20 years, he said, with statistically high wrecks, and issues with both the bridge and its acceleration and deceleration lanes.

Youngblood said the design phase could start as soon as this year, with construction slated to begin in 2027.

The Wards Ferry Road roundabout, an $11.3 million project, would construct a roundabout at the intersection near the Central Virginia Community College campus, and a sidewalk to tie into CVCC. The planning and design phase is slated to begin in 2022, with construction tentatively beginning in 2027.

Other ongoing projects include long-awaited improvements to the intersection of U.S. 501 and U.S. 221. The city is holding a virtual design public meeting regarding the project Oct. 14.

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