April 27, 2014

York County designates state funds for road improvements

Funds to pave five gravel roads in rural District 3 were pulled last week after some residents denied permission needed to greenlight construction.

Funding to pave five gravel roads in York County’s rural District 3 was pulled last week after some residents denied permission needed to greenlight construction.

Residents in western York County rejected a total of more than $740,000 worth of funds to apply asphalt to existing gravel roads, citing concerns about how paved roads might impact the character of the community, spur unlawful speeding and increase traffic.

“You have people who really want it and people who don’t want it,” county Transportation Manager Ryan Blancke said of the C-Fund program, which uses state funds for road resurfacing and other improvements.

Councilman Joe Cox formally requested the funding be pulled last Monday after several attempts by county staff to get right-of-way permission failed.

“Staff has tried over four times for each and every road,” said Cox. “You can’t continue to waste staff’s time trying to get right-of-way. ”

Funding for one of the roads, Fleetwood Road in York, was allocated in 2006. Funds to pave Smith Valley, Orr, and Spencer roads were allocated last March, and funding for Narrow Lane in 2012.

All funding will be redirected for future District 3 projects.

Blancke said it’s not uncommon to encounter residents who don’t want their roads paved because of potential inconveniences such as widening, which often involves removal of trees or mailboxes.

He estimates the majority of those his office notifies of proposed road improvements are on board, but around 40 percent deny right-of-way permission, which is needed for construction.

On April 21, the York County Council approved a final list of all C-Fund projects for this year, which cover nearly 20 miles of city, county and state roads. More than 60 percent involve state-maintained roads.

Blancke’s department spends several months each year inspecting and ranking requests solicited from the public. Projects are prioritized based on conditions, traffic and residential impact.

The county relies on right-of-way donations from affected residents because the program’s limited funds do not cover right-of-way acquisition. Right-of-way permission for C-Fund projects is used strictly to complete road improvements and doesn’t go toward utility expansion or other uses, Blancke said.

One elderly resident, Elois D. Gilmore, said she was disappointed to find the paving project had been pulled. Gilmore, 72, said she suffers from health issues that are aggravated by the dust stirred up on the gravel road.

“I’m very upset,” said Gilmore, whose husband signed a right-of-way deal several years ago before he died. “We’re not asking for much.”

Gilmore had been under the impression that only part of the road would be paved since other residents further down did not provide right-of-way. She was also not clear as to whether the city or the county was continuing the project.

She said she hopes more funds will be spent to better maintain the gravel road if paving is no longer an option.

Deteriorating state roads

While funds can be used for various improvements – such as sidewalk construction, paving and calcium chloride applications to prevent dirt roads from drying out – the poor condition of state roads makes resurfacing the most popular option for the money.

Each county receives an annual C-Funds allocation from the state Department of Transportation based on gas tax revenues.

York County receives roughly $2.5 million annually, with a percentage reserved for economic development improvements. The remaining chunk is split evenly among seven council districts.

Each council member can funnel leftover money back into the fund and has the options of loaning and transferring money to other districts.

Originally, Cox had set aside a $50,000 loan from Councilman Curwood Chappell’s District 5 to fully finance the paving of Orr Road. That money has since been returned to Chappell’s fund.

By law, the county must spend at least a quarter of allocations on state roads, but the county typically exceeds that minimum, spending closer to 75 percent, Blancke said.

“When is the state going to pony up?” asked Cox, who supports the creation of a maintenance fund under the county’s separate Pennies for Progress road program.

Pennies is funded through a one-cent sales tax and is limited to new road construction. State regulations bar large-scale maintenance work under Pennies.

Cox said the amount in C-Funds barely makes a dent in what’s needed to bring his district – which covers close to half the county – up to par. To Cox, paving the roads is a matter of making them more accessible to emergency personnel and to the greater public.

The reluctance of some residents regarding paving projects also makes Cox reluctant about future funding.

“I’m not touching that road again,” he said of applying future C-Funds to any of the five roads for other things like calcium chloride maintenance. “I’m sick of it.”

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