In response to recent complaints by Mathews residents about drainage issues in the county, representatives of the Virginia Department of Transportation sat down with the Gazette-Journal last week to discuss the department’s role in dealing with drainage.
Trapani explained that, while it’s VDOT’s job to keep water off roads to prevent traffic accidents and pavement failure, drainage issues in areas that don’t belong to VDOT aren’t the department’s responsibility. If it were proved that the road caused the problem, he said, VDOT would take responsibility.
Property owners have used ditches to drain water from their land since long before there was a public road system, said Trapani. While some residents believe that it’s the department’s job to clean outfall ditches, he said that many outfall ditches run across private property and weren’t originally constructed to deal with road drainage.
In 1932, the Byrd Act gave VDOT authority over most of the county roads that existed at that time, creating the Virginia Secondary Roads System. The state holds prescriptive easements to those roads, said Trapani, meaning that, while the state doesn’t own the roads, it has a right to use and maintain them. After 1932, roads were built with a fee simple right-of-way, he said, so that the road and the property alongside are actually owned by the public.