COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Implementing the County’s Transportation Strategy: County Transportation Engineer
Establishment of a Transportation Engineer position
Tucker, Foley, Davis, Graham, Cilimberg
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
December 7, 2005
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
Over the past several months, staff has worked with the Board to develop and clarify a strategy for more effectively addressing the County’s transportation needs. This has resulted in a written ‘County Transportation Strategy’ (attachment D) to help to clarify and direct the County’s efforts. In addition, the Board recently amended its Strategic Plan and identified the need to accelerate two local and two regional transportation projects. Both the Transportation Strategy and the Strategic Plan call for the County to begin to more actively engage in moving “critical” transportation projects forward, rather than waiting on VDOT in every case. While the County is currently engaged in efforts to address important regional projects, the focus of recent Board discussion has been on addressing the critical local roads identified in the Secondary Six Year Plan (SSYP) and in approved master plans.
As a result of the most recent work sessions, staff was directed to develop a list of critical local projects and a plan for how local transportation funds might be utilized to accelerate those projects. In response, staff identified two projects currently in the SSYP: Jarman’s Gap Road and Georgetown Road, and two projects from currently approved master plans: Eastern Avenue and Main Street in Crozet. Proffit Road was also identified as a future SSYP project. Each of these projects was identified as those with the best opportunity to be accelerated through County involvement. However, staff also identified the need for a transportation engineer and recommended the position as an essential component to move these projects forward and to successfully implement the County’s transportation strategy and Strategic Plan. After discussion, the Board requested more information on existing staff responsibilities and responsibilities for the new position.
3.4 Develop and Implement policies, including financial, that address the County’s growing transportation needs.
Staff believes the proposed transportation strategy reflects a new reality for the County. The reluctance of the State to commit to adequately fund secondary roads, combined with the County’s effort to assure attractive and desirable Development Areas, effectively requires a new effort regarding transportation. Staff anticipates the current demands will not lessen and, if the State does not significantly increase transportation funding, the County’s transportation role may need to increase over time. However, just to address the current transportation strategy and strategic plan goals, staff believes a qualified transportation engineer with VDOT experience is necessary. The proposed transportation strategy is seen as an ongoing effort that must closely coordinate with VDOT on issues related to funding, design, right of way, and construction management.
Over the last decade, the County’s role in the construction of roads has been limited to two transportation projects, Berkmar Drive and Mill Creek Drive. In both cases, the County’s role has more closely resembled that of a developer than a surrogate for VDOT. Both were isolated and fairly simple projects, with a fairly limited need to coordinate with VDOT. The new role required to carry out the County’s new transportation strategy will require considerably more effort on a continuous basis to be effective. Using the Crozet Eastern Avenue/Bridge project as an example, the attached timeline (attachment B) shows how the County cannot simply design and build a bridge, but must first work with private property owners and VDOT in establishing an alignment for Eastern Avenue so the bridge will be located in the proper place. This will require a continuous effort rather than the shorter-term effort that a consultant would normally provide. The same will be true for other projects if the County hopes to see their completion accelerated. For example, work with VDOT on a Proffit Road design will likely require exploring how the County could accelerate the preliminary engineering and design efforts, all while soliciting public input. Even if VDOT manages the design and construction of the project, a transportation engineer devoted to proactively working to keep the project on schedule would be a benefit. Additionally, work on the Places 29 and Pantops master plans, as well as the regional transportation plan, are anticipated to generate a number of other possible road projects which will need preliminary engineering to find cost effective designs.
Regarding staff’s current ability to fill the role of a transportation engineer to undertake this new program, staff has attached a table (attachment C) describing both existing positions and the proposed transportation engineer position in terms of responsibilities. Alternatives to funding this new position would require difficult choices between existing programs and this new program. For example, Community Development could hire consultants to perform engineering reviews, which would allow existing resources to be used on transportation projects. However, the review costs with this change would be much greater than the cost of this new position. In addition, even if the County could shift this new program to current engineering staff, they are not experienced with many of the VDOT constraints the transportation engineer will likely experience. While they are qualified with respect to managing the design of roads and bridges to VDOT standards, VDOT has extensive project management requirements that must be followed with any project receiving State funding. It is anticipated it would take a minimum of a year for current County engineers to become proficient with VDOT project management requirements.
Based on the Board’s desire to move forward with “critical” local road projects and in light of the new transportation strategies, staff recommends funding the transportation engineer position to assure this work can be accomplished in a timely manner. As the enclosed draft project schedule (attachment B) for Eastern Avenue/Bridge project indicates, establishment of this “critical connector” will require a continuous effort over the next four to five years to meet the time line identified in the master plan and to prepare for the development approved through the master plan. In addition, follow up and continuous attention will be needed in working with VDOT to determine ways to accelerate Jarman’s Gap Road and other priority SSYP projects. Staff sees the addition of a transportation engineer as an essential first step in proceeding with the County’s transportation strategy and to begin addressing the currently identified priorities and any new priorities that will emerge from the master planning process. If the Board does not believe it is the right time to start this program, staff would recommend delaying implementation of the transportation strategies and considering the transportation engineer position again in the second half of 2006.
To be effective, this position will require an experienced transportation engineer. At a grade 19, this position would require approximately $80,000 in the first year, to include start up costs, and $77,000 in subsequent years. Between County funding, developer funding, and State funding, this position would oversee approximately $5 Million in annual transportation expenditures. Thus, the position represents about 1.5% of the investment in County transportation improvements. It is anticipated the cost of the position would be more than offset by project savings through better design and expedited schedules for projects. For example, the position’s annual cost would be recovered if the engineer helped avoid a two month delay in the Jarmans Gap Road project.
Approval of the establishment of a transportation engineer position at grade 19 and approval of an appropriation of $80,000 from current transportation funding to fund the position in FY05/06. If approved, an appropriation request for FY06 will be presented for approval on a future consent agenda and the position would be funded in the General Services Department in subsequent fiscal years.
Attachment A – November 9th Transportation Strategy Work session
Attachment B – Eastern Ave / Lickinghole Bridge Accelerated Schedule
Attachment C - Engineering Responsibilities
Attachment D – Transportation Strategy
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