On Friday, The Washington Post published an article about Hillsboro, Virginia, which has a population of 120 but managed to secure $34 million in county, state, and federal funding for a transformative infrastructure project.
“While lawmakers on Capitol Hill debate the nation’s infrastructure needs – and projects across the country await an infusion of federal money – this small town 50 miles outside of Washington is reaping the benefits of a multimillion-dollar boost,” the Post reported.
The total cost to make Hillsboro a “walkable town” was the equivalent of about $280,000 per resident, while the city’s annual operating budget is less than $200k.
According to the Post, there were no sidewalks there until recently, and “its 0.7-mile stretch of Route 9 – a thoroughfare that carries 17,000 vehicles each day – was redesigned to emphasize the needs of the town rather than the commuters passing through.” The “fast-moving commuter traffic” back and forth between West Virginia and Washington D.C. made it “too treacherous for neighbors to mingle outside” and forced the townspeople to use automobiles while running errands “since the short walk was too dangerous.”
“We were losing our sense of community,” said Hillsboro Vice Mayor Amy Marasco. “You couldn’t go across the street to your neighbor, because cars were flying through.”
The Rt. 9 #traffic calming proj in Hillsboro, which NVTA is funding ($12M), is well underway. The proj aims to provide congestion relief for residents, commuters & visitors thru one of the region’s busiest commuter & tourist travel routes. @LoudounCoGovt https://t.co/wmEyCsy28i pic.twitter.com/NNAMRerJDH
— Northern Virginia's Transportation Authority (@NVTAuthority) June 5, 2020
Marasco, along with Hillsboro Mayor Roger L. Vance, reportedly applied for more than 30 grants and were rejected by several federal programs. However, the town secured a $1.5 million federal highway grant in 2003, $12.1 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority 15 years later, and Loudoun County invested almost $19 million more.
The project broke ground last year during the pandemic. The two-lane road reopened this spring and featured improvements like stone sidewalks, raised crosswalks, curbside parking, and a roundabout on each end of town to slow the flow of traffic. Supporters of the project say it not only benefits Hillsboro, but improves safety for residents, visitors, and commuters passing through while encouraging tourists to patronize local breweries and wineries.
In the heart of Virginia’s wine country, Hillsboro was transformed into a walkable town during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hillsboro’s success is a case study in how a rural area can take matters into its own hands, experts say.https://t.co/6Un3zn2pUa
— Luz Lazo (@luzcita) July 23, 2021
According to the Post, “The town saved millions of dollars by having Vance and Marasco take the role of project managers, and by combining multiple infrastructure projects into one,” and:
The project, the culmination of a nearly two-decade campaign, not only rebuilt Hillsboro’s main street but also modernized other aging infrastructure.
Crews installed a town-owned conduit to deliver fiber for broadband, moved overhead utilities underground and built a better storm water system. A new drinking water system was connected to a new water source, ending a 25-year boiling water notice.
Meanwhile, pipes were installed to transition homeowners from septic tanks to a municipal wastewater system, eliminating risks of septic failure that could be environmentally and financially catastrophic.
Hillsboro plans to soon start construction on a $1.7 million project to build three new trails and has begun fundraising to establish a visitors center with a museum and café, the Post reported.
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