Intersection plans draws dozens to VDOT meeting

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: October 24, 2019 | 1:45 p.m. 

VDOT accepting comments on project through October 27

DINWIDDIE – A month after state transportation officials said they were slowing the pace of a planned intersection reconfiguration at one of the county’s busiest crossroads to allow for the receipt of additional comments from the community, that feedback was delivered by residents and local drivers during a special public information session in Northeast Dinwiddie.

Eastside Enhancement Center served was the host venue for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s public information meeting last Thursday evening, where plans for a modified median U-turn at the intersection of New Cox and Courthouse Roads were shared with the Dinwiddie residents, the first such meeting since the project was conceptualized in the winter of this year.

VDOT representatives were on-hand to receive comments from the community, both oral and written, while also answering questions about the project that has drawn its fair share of support from drivers who want to see something done at the intersection where a series of accidents over the last several years has resulted in property damage, injuries, and fatalities, such as in January when Dinwiddie High School student Dakota Reid died in a crash at the intersection, and criticism from those who believe something else could be done aside from installing this kind of intersection configuration.

Throughout the life of this project, plans had called for some form a restricted crossing U-turn intersection, or RCUT, which would’ve restricted left turn and through movement from Courthouse Road by requiring all traffic approaching from the north and south on Route 627 to make a right turn followed by a U-turn along U.S. Route 460 at one of two locations, one for each direction of travel.

Source: Virginia Department of Transportation 

Initial plans for the project saw the median between Route 637 and U.S. Route 460 remain open, allowing for drivers along U.S. Route 460 to still turn left from New Cox Road onto Courthouse Road but, since that time, the project has been modified to completely close the median, meaning traffic will only be able to use the proposed U-turn paths that would be installed as part of the new layout.

“The proposed improvements require drivers to monitor only one direction of traffic and lessens the risk of serious injuries, costly property damage, and fatalities,” a pamphlet at last week’s meeting detailed.

At Eastside on Thursday, residents huddled around large diagrams of the intersection’s design, gleaning information from engineers and other VDOT representatives alike.

“We’re accepting public comments through Oct. 27 so we are definitely going to take those comments into consideration and partner with the county to see what the next steps are from there,” VDOT Communications representative Bethanie Glover said at last week’s meeting.

She added the next steps of the project are dependent on the feedback received during last week’s meeting and the open comment period, along with discussions with Dinwiddie County officials.

In regards to cost, VDOT reports the modified median U-turn will cost an estimated $295,000 and not require any utility or right-of-way acquisition based on the current design presented at last week’s public information meeting. The funding for the project came from state safety dollars that had been tied to a project planned for Ritchie Avenue in Northeast Dinwiddie County, which will see a turn lane added and signal upgrades to support increased traffic at the intersection as businesses set up shop in the area. That project was set to take place during the summer but was delayed when the county voted to add the RCUT plans to their six year road plan with VDOT and asked the transportation agency to find funding to allow the project to move forward as soon as possible.

Earlier this month, VDOT Representative Scott Thornton told the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors that the Ritchie Avenue project is set to begin in the next few weeks, citing the agency’s desire to wait until the county fair wrapped to prevent interruptions to traffic flow along the busy U.S. Route 1 corridor during the Dinwiddie County Fair, which concluded just over a week ago.

Glover confirmed plenty of funding remains for the project as questions were raised if equipment that had been placed at the intersection ahead of the planned August construction of the modified median U-turn were relocated or completely removed from the area after VDOT opted to bring the project back for additional comments.

During last week’s meeting, Glover said some questions they heard from residents centered around how larger vehicles would move through the intersection, ranging from school buses, given that Courthouse Road is a main link to Dinwiddie High and Dinwiddie Middle School, and farm equipment.

“I have spoken to some bus drivers who are concerned about the speed at which their bus will pick up on the road and about their ability to turn in the [modified median U-turn],” Glover detailed. “There is some additional space on the other side of the MUT so that it will accommodate tractor-trailers and larger vehicles. It is important that road designs be able to accommodate all types of vehicles that might be on the roads. Just the same as we do for detours, we have to make sure we identify a route that is able to accommodate all types of vehicles.”

Dinwiddie Supervisor Dr. Mark Moore talks with VDOT officials at last week’s public information session on planned intersection changes. (Michael Campbell) 

She continued, “It is an unusual innovative intersection and we understand there is apprehensiveness with all innovative intersections so we definitely want to explain that and educate people so they know exactly what the situation would be and are able to leave their comments and know fully what it is about.”

While some believe this “innovative intersection” configuration is not the right solution to the issues with the crossroad as the idea of a traffic signal or speed reduction are often floated for consideration despite VDOT engineers finding no grounds for either based on their own analysis of both, others feel this project was moved too quickly through the required processes and not enough time was given to allow for it to be fully vetted or receive wide community comments. When asked about the latter sentiment, Glover said it was important to get additional comments from area residents and drivers.

“We wanted to make sure all public comments were heard and considered before we moved on,” she remarked.

The pamphlet distributed at last week’s meeting provided a timetable for the project, which would see construction beginning later this fall, in line with comments made by Thornton during September’s board of supervisors meeting, with completion in “Winter 2019-20.” When asked about that timetable, Glover said the public comments and conversations with the county will guide the project’s future.

“It is all dependent on what comments we receive and what we discuss with the county and next steps,” she closed.

Written comments can be submitted by October 27 providing them to Residency Administrator Thornton, Virginia Department of Transportation, 4608 Boydton Plank Road, Petersburg, Virginia 23803-6532.

Those comments can also be emailed to scott.thornton@vdot.virginia.gov, with the subject line “Dinwiddie RCUT.”

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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