Countywide Dialogue on Transportation: Secondary Roads Devolution Summary

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Alternatives for Improving Roadway Services in Fairfax County
November 30, 2010

Study Goals and Objectives

  • Examine ways to improve the delivery of roadway services in Fairfax County
    • Consider different levels of responsibility the County may assume
    • Consider the “roadway” as multi-modal; the entire right-of-way has the potential to carry pedestrian, bikes, transit, and cars
  • Estimate VDOT’s expenditures on maintenance and operations in Fairfax County, on the primary and secondary roadway systems.  Operations include traffic signals, signage and other related functions
    • Compare with other arrangements in other Virginia jurisdictions

Roadway Maintenance Funding in Virginia

  • By state law, 3 categories: (1) cities and towns receive direct payments and perform own maintenance, (2) Henrico and Arlington perform own maintenance with separate allocations, (3) VDOT maintains in all other counties
  • State law requires that maintenance be funded prior to construction
  • State construction funds have been increasingly diverted to maintenance functions

Estimated Recent VDOT Maintenance and Operations Expenditures/Allocations in Fairfax (FY07-11)

  • Primary System: $30 million / yr.
  • Secondary System: $43 million / yr.
  • Total: $73 million / yr.

Study Data and Limitations

  • VDOT provided the County with expenditure and allocation data
    • FY 2007 – FY 2009: budget allocations and actual expenditures
    • FY 2010 – FY 2011: budget allocations
  • Cost data provides only an approximation
    • Sometimes difficult to isolate costs that are only attributable to Fairfax County
    • Maintenance categories change year by year
  • Performance measures were not examined; VDOT costs are constrained by VDOT budget limitations and do not represent ideal / complete preventive maintenance needs (e.g. number of mowing cycles, amount of repaving, etc.) and citizen expectations.
  • Additional analysis would be needed before taking any actions.  Costs to County would entail additional expenditures for manpower, related overhead expenses, equipment, facilities, other start-up costs (asset management systems, etc.)

Potential Benefits of an Increased County Role

  • Increase overall funding for maintenance and operations
  • Enhance influence in transportation decision-making
  • Improve responsiveness and accountability
  • Increase flexibility in establishing priorities and standards
    • Maintenance standards and priorities
    • Roadway standards
    • Improvement priorities

Alternatives Considered

  • Enhance selected maintenance activities
    • Increase and improve communication and coordination with VDOT
    • Provide additional local funding to VDOT
    • Assume responsibility for selected activities
  • Assume responsibility over secondary system under provisions in Code of Virginia for Devolution
    • Maintenance only
    • Construction only
    • Maintenance and construction
    • Full responsibility (maintenance, operations, construction)
  • Assume responsibility in select geographic areas under provisions for Urban Transportation Service Districts
  • Assume responsibility for entire primary and secondary system


  • Advantages and disadvantages of various levels of County responsibility are identified in report.
  • County assumption of maintenance functions could raise public expectations for improved service
  • Condition of many assets requires corrective actions to address backlog of deferred maintenance
  • (Additional) start-up costs will be required for manpower, equipment, and facilities
  • Levels of service must be identified.  Desired service level may exceed current VDOT standard but may increase cost
  • VDOT may reimburse County for some costs, but amounts must be negotiated
  • Experiences of other jurisdictions who maintain roads
    • They assume liability for their roads
    • Most such jurisdictions supplement VDOT payments with local funds

Financial Implications

  • Costs to County will vary by alternative mechanism selected, maintenance and operation functions assumed, and level of service provided
  • Study reviews possible local funding sources
  • VDOT expenditures in Fairfax County approximately equal to VDOT payment rate for cities and towns


  • Significantly improving levels of service (more mowing cycles, more frequent repaving) requires more funding
    • Assuming responsibility may or may not improve levels of service
  • No clear financial benefit exists for assuming more responsibilities
    • Assuming responsibility provides benefits in transportation decision-making, local responsiveness and accountability, and flexibility in establishing priorities and standards.
  • If the County decides to increase its responsibilities over roads, it should consider:
    • Taking an incremental approach
    • Working with VDOT to identify additional administrative, planning, or engineering functions that the County could assume
    • Working with VDOT to enhance select maintenance activities Countywide
    • Studying assuming full maintenance and operations responsibilities in select areas of the County under provisions for Urban Transportation Service Districts

View the full report

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