By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: February 12, 2019 | 1:45 p.m.
Road fixed within days of The Dinwiddie Monitor’s inquiry
DINWIDDIE – What has been a thorn in the side of drivers in the Wilsons area of Dinwiddie County has been addressed after months of flooding issues along one of the area’s unpaved roads has left residents feeling like their rural roads are not a priority to state transportation crews.
For those who use Foster Road between Wilson and Grubby Roads in Wilsons, traveling along the gravel roadway could be treacherous at times as a portion of the roadway became notorious for being filled with water following rainstorms, taking days to empty at times. In images, water is seen rising as high as step rails on some pickup trucks.
According to those who live in the area, the issue isn’t new and has been persistent since the Fall of 2018, with one resident saying crews with the Virginia Department of Transportation, the agency who oversees the most of the county’s paved and unpaved roads, did travel down the path but, when they got to the problem area, which reportedly started as a small pothole before becoming a significant fall-off in the roadway, they would take their equipment over the problem section before advancing down the roadway.
In an interview, VDOT Richmond District spokesperson Bob Spieldenner said the agency’s customer service center received its first ticket on the roadway in December of 2018 but with the wet year and bout of winter weather, it made the situation on the roadway worse.
Once crews made their way to Foster Road two weeks ago, they discovered the cause of the issue, a broken drainage pipe. According to VDOT, a drain pipe had failed under the roadway, which caused the ponding to be a consistent occurrence in the area as water that flowed off an area of higher ground nearby seemed to collect right across the roadway.
“Our headquarters had been out there before,” he said. “They put stones out there and graded it but with the weather and continued use, the repairs didn’t keep.”
Residents in the area expressed concern for not only drivers but for Dinwiddie County school buses that also travel the area. According to Dinwiddie County Public Schools Director of School & Community Relations Christie Clarke, one bus does travel along that road but there are no students who live on the road itself.
“It is a convenient and time-saving cut through road from Wilson Road to Grubby Road,” Clarke said following her conversations with transportation director Edward Tucker, who also expressed concerns about the roadway.
“We have experienced these issues with the road,” Clarke confirmed. “Mr. Tucker [had] also been in contact with VDOT about this concern as well. When there are issues, the bus can avoid this road and make a detour to continue to the route.”
This image shows the scope of the ponding issues that plagued this stretch of Foster Road for months, according to residents. VDOT said a drain pipe failed under the roadway, resulting in water being unable to flow properly. (Everette Prosice)
When asked, Spieldenner said 2018 presented a number of challenges to the agency in terms of maintenance, including on rural, unpaved roads.
“The weather, especially some of the more extreme weather we have had in 2018 definitely makes it more of a challenge with the amount of rain we have during 2018,” he said. “Drainage ditches have been a challenge this year and our crews haven’t even been able to make repairs on them because there is still water sitting in the bottom of them because the ground is so saturated.”
Spieldenner continued, “In the past, we would have been able to go in and make repairs and do routine maintenance of the ditches, but we haven’t been able to do that as much as usual because the ground has been so saturated for so long.”
According to VDOT, when unpaved roads need some form of patching, it is typically done through the use of putting down additional stone and having the road graded, either via equipment or by hand, noting he was unable to speak to specific comments from locals who say crews did little to address the growing pothole that turned out to be a failed drainage pipe.
“I can’t speak to what they witnessed but that is typically what they would do,” Spieldenner said.
To that end, following what locals in the area of the road said they saw, a lack of attention paid to a problem roadway, some in the area feel their rural unpaved roads are less important in the eyes of the Virginia Department of Transportation as opposed to their paved counterparts and more developed portions of the county. For VDOT, they explain that their crews are active across all of the Richmond District, which includes Dinwiddie County and rural roads are important but they also have to look at priority.
“We have our headquarters spread throughout the region and those crews are focused in those rural areas,” Spieldenner remarked. “We do make determinations of priority based on safety issues, and safety issues are going to be a top priority, no matter where it is.”
He continued, “Higher volume roads are generally going to get things taken care of faster as long as it’s not a safety issue. So they [crews] make a determination based on all the work that might be coming in and figure out what they can get done and develop a schedule for that work.”
“Gravel roads, in general,” Spieldenner remarked, “carry less traffic so if it is not a safety issue then it would be something that is worked into the schedule as crews have time to complete it.”
He added that drivers are encouraged to call into the agency’s hotline to report traffic and road issues, where they will also be provided a ticket number to allow them to call back into the center to learn about progress toward rectifying a reported issue.
“If drivers see a pothole or other road issue, they call in at 1-800-367-7623 (FOR-ROAD), all the information would be gathered, and we give a claim number and they can call back into the center with that number to get an update if there is any,” he said.
Following The Dinwiddie Monitor’s inquiries into the issue on January 21, Spieldenner said VDOT crews traveled to the roadway and performed the drainage pipe replacement and re-graded the road by the end of that week.
In addition to the agency’s toll-free number, Virginia drivers can also use VDOT’s online service to report road issues and check the status of a claim at http://my.vdot.virginia.gov.