State fund­ing for county bike path falls short in first round

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty Hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

An ap­pli­ca­tion for state grant monies for the ini­tial stretch of a multi-use trail fell just short of be­ing funded in the lat­est round of con­sid­er­a­tions by the state Com­mon­wealth Trans­porta­tion Board (CTB), an arm of the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

But Jane Whit­field, or­ga­nizer of the trails project, re­mains op­ti­mistic.

In both an email and phone call Wed­nes­day, she ex­plained that the grant­ing process has many steps, and that the lack of fund­ing by the CTB does not sig­nify fail­ure. In fact, she said, many projects fail to qual­ify their first time out. If com­pleted, the trail would con­nect the towns of Wash­ing­ton and Sper­ryville.

The ini­tial seg­ment would con­nect the county’s ele­men­tary and high schools.

Ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet is­sued Fe­bru­ary 12 about the Trans­porta­tion Al­ter­na­tives Pro­gram (TAP), un­der which Whit­field and Rap­pa­han­nock Trails ap­plied for state fund­ing in the cat­e­gory of “Safe Routes to Schools,” 134 ap­pli­ca­tions were re­ceived from around the state.

All ap­pli­ca­tions are scored in­de­pen­dently along sev­eral cri­te­ria

by VDOT staff. The high­est pos­si­ble score is 300. Each of the state’s nine trans­porta­tion dis­tricts is al­lo­cated state funds to award to projects, from the high­est scorer down, un­til such time the funds are de­pleted.

Of the eight projects in the Culpeper dis­trict — which in­cludes Rap­pa­han­nock County — the CTB funded six with scores from 247.5 to 185.5. Rap­pa­han­nock Trails’ score was 177.8.

Whit­field stressed that the CTB se­lec­tions are ten­ta­tive, as only the dis­trict rep­re­sen­ta­tives have weighed in. Be­tween now and the fi­nal de­ci­sion in June, at-large mem­bers, who also have funds avail­able, will be able to make al­lo­ca­tions.

The Rapp Trails project has met with much op­po­si­tion from the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially around the is­sue of whether the county will be re­quired to pay for any por­tion of the multi-year ef­fort. In Oc­to­ber, at a marathon Board of Su­per­vi­sors meet­ing at­tended by over 100 peo­ple, the board ap­proved a res­o­lu­tion sup­port­ing the in­tent of the project.

Many peo­ple at the meet­ing and around the county ob­jected to lan­guage in the res­o­lu­tion that ap­pears to hold the county re­spon­si­ble for 20 per­cent of the costs of build­ing the trail.

Whit­field has in­sisted all along that no county funds will be used.

“Most gov­ern­ment grants re­quire that the grantee pro­vide some kind of match­ing funds, and this grant is no ex­cep­tion,” Whit­field said in her email. “The grant re­quires a 20 per­cent match, which in this case is about $205,000. The match can be pro­vided by a part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tion, such as Rap­pTrails. There is no re­quire­ment that the funds come from county rev­enue. Rap­pTrails com­mit­ted to rais­ing this match with pri­vate funds to en­sure that no county tax dol­lars would be re­quired for the project.”

To date the or­ga­ni­za­tion has raised $207,000 from lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers and foun­da­tions and has com­mit­ments to raise an ad­di­tional $50,000 for fu­ture costs and main­te­nance.

“These funds cover the en­tire 20 per­cent match re­quired by the grant,” Whit­field said. “The on­go­ing com­mu­nity sup­port has been heart­en­ing and I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing our work to con­nect the schools with a safe bik­ing and walk­ing path. We are hope­ful that the project will be se­lected for fund­ing dur­ing the next round of de­lib­er­a­tions, which hap­pens in April.”

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