Local Assistance Division

Devolution of the Secondary System

What is Devolution?

Virginia is one of only a few states where state government has maintenance, operational, and construction responsibilities for local roads.

In most states, the state transportation agency assumes these responsibilities for interstate and primary routes while local governments assume them for local roads. 

Except in Arlington and Henrico counties, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) assumes all maintenance, operational, and construction responsibilities on the secondary roads in the commonwealth’s counties.

In 2001, the General Assembly enacted what is commonly known as the “Devolution Statute” The statute provides that boards of supervisors in any county that wishes to assume responsibility for any portion of the state secondary system of highways within that county’s boundaries may request the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner enter into and implement an agreement to do so. This is known as “devolution.”

George Mason Secondary Road Study - June 2011

This report reviews the Commonwealth of Virginia’s secondary road policy in order to identify options for revising policy to improve the condition and operation of the secondary system in light of continuing reductions in secondary construction and maintenance budgets.

County Assumption of Secondary System Feasibility Study

In 2006, VDOT began a partnership with Stafford and James City counties (our “partner counties”) to evaluate options for a county to assume responsibilities for the secondary road system within their boundaries. 

The purpose of the study was to determine the resources needed and the financial, organizational, and logistical implications associated with a county taking over the functional activities for the secondary road system.

The study, completed in March 2007, resulted in a “devolution guidebook,” which provides necessary background information when considering devolution options, and a “feasibility model for secondary system assumption,” which provides a computer model to estimate the costs associated with various devolution options. 

Each partner county also received a detailed analysis of their devolution options. 

Devolution Tools

As part of VDOT's continuing support to counties wishing to explore devolution, the agency has prepared tools to assist localities. 

These include:

  • Checklists
  • A model resolution for use by boards of supervisors
  • A "standard devolution agreement" with companion memorandums of agreement (MOAs)
    One for maintenance and one for construction responsibility. These provide more details associated with the selected devolution option.

The devolution agreement and the MOAs have been approved as "standards" by the Office of the Attorney General.

County Construction Initiative

In 2005, VDOT was directed by the General Assembly to develop and prepare legislative recommendations, in conjunction with representatives of counties, on the process for any county, at their request, to assume responsibility for their secondary construction program.

VDOT established a stakeholder group of county officials from across the state. The group suggested changes to the Code of Virginia to clarify and further define how a county could assume responsibility for their secondary program.


Page last modified: Oct. 30, 2019