How Do We Fund and Execute Capital Improvement Program Projects? The Case of Shore Drive

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Planning capital improvement projects involves a complex series of steps.
The land acquisition, construction, expansion, maintenance, rehabilitation and upgrading of important public assets such as roadways and sidewalks; schools and city buildings; parks; bridges and other infrastructure are all organized from conception to construction by the Public Works Department. Executing these public projects places significant demands on the city’s financial resources and, as a result, they must be carefully planned and budgeted well in advance of breaking ground for construction.
For these reasons, the City Council annually outlines a six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) to define needs, set priorities, plan funding and anticipate impacts of the city’s needs on the municipal operating budget.
Each CIP project outlines a related set of activities that result in either the purchase or construction of a capital asset or major improvement. To be considered a “capital project,” the total scope of work must cost at least $50,000.
The details of each capital project the city has defined are available to the public for review at www.vbgov.com/CIPprojectsearch.
In many cases, a large capital project may be broken down into multiple sub-projects. For instance, for more than 15 years, the city has been planning improvements along the Shore Drive corridor. These have been subdivided into multiple smaller projects that are currently in various stages of completion.
In 1996, the city commissioned the Urban Land Institute to do a study of the Bayfront/Shore Drive Corridor in the northern section of the city along the Chesapeake Bay. The study made the following observations, “… the Bayfront/Shore Drive area of Virginia Beach is a ‘resort community’ as opposed to a ‘resort destination.’ While this general community character is desirable, the area does not have a clear image or unifying identity, and both the Bayfront community and the city currently lack a definite vision of what the area should be like in ten years.”

Some of the major recommendations of the study entailed:
·         making Lesner Bridge a focal point
·         extending the bike path
·         retaining the four lane roadway
·         developing a landscape design plan
·         developing a public beach plan
·         improving development review and
      enforcement
·         creating an advisory commission
In 1998, City Council appointed the Shore Drive Advisory Committee, (renamed the Bayfront Advisory Committee in 2006). The Shore Drive Corridor Plan, which was adopted by council in 2000, establishes a vision for the area as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.
Today, many of the plan’s recommendations are currently underway in the form of various CIP projects.
In March, Mayor William Sessoms presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Shore Drive Road Improvements, which included a new bike lane.  This particular project was expedited following several bicycle-involved accidents on the roadway. The Mayor and a group of concerned cyclists developed the Bike Safety Task Force, and adding the lane to improve the safety of cyclists riding on Shore Drive was one of the group’s first priorities. Under the advisement of both the Shore Drive Safety Task Force and the Bike Safety Task Force, the shoulder along eastbound Shore Drive was paved and widened from Kendall Street to 83rdStreet, approximately 3.5 miles. Trees along the route were trimmed, rumble strips were added, landscaping was installed and the pavement was more clearly marked to designate the bike lane. The westbound improvements will be completed next year.

Public Works has also completed the Southside Pedestrian crossing at Lake Joyce. This project called for the construction of a 10-foot wide pedestrian bridge and sidewalk spanning approximately 700 feet to connect the south side of Shore Drive at the Lake Joyce crossing located just west of Treasure Island Drive. The pedestrian bridge and path were opened to the public in January of this year.
“The ultimate results of these types of capital improvement projects go beyond pot-hole-free streets, safe sidewalks and asbestos-free buildings,” says Phil Davenport, interim director of Public Works. “They impact not only our citizens’ quality of life, but the city’s ability to attract and retain businesses that ensure our continued economic vitality.”

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