Traffic light eyed for Route 1 near Dominion, Central State Hospital

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: November 6, 2019 | 1:45 p.m. 

DINWIDDIE – Virginia Department of Transportation representatives confirmed the possibility of a traffic light being installed along U.S. Route 1 at the entrances of Dominion Energy’s new headquarters and Central State Hospital.

The information was revealed by VDOT Residency Administrator Scott Thornton during his monthly report to the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors this month following questions from Supervisor Brenda Ebron-Bonner, who asked about possible travel impacts once Dominion’s multi-million dollar facility begins full operations later this year coupled with Central State Hospital daily traffic and the continuous flow of vehicles along U.S. Route 1, a main link between Petersburg and Dinwiddie County.

The layout of Dominion’s new regional headquarters, which is relocating from their longtime home along East Washington Street near Puddledock Road and the Tri-City Landfill, is different from the previous tenant on the sprawling property along U.S. Route 1 between the county’s eastern border with Petersburg and Cox Road, Southside Virginia Training Center as the intersection to get to the facility prior to its 2014 closure was several hundred yards west of one of the main roads leading into the Central State Hospital complex.

With its completion set for the fourth quarter of this year, according to Dominion Energy representatives, once open, roughly 100 employees will staff the complex, with the facility also serving to house equipment and other materials the electric utility will use as part of their daily operations and response to outages across their coverage area in the region.

In addition, while development remains ongoing, plans are in the works to develop a new 300-bed replacement to Central State Hospital at its current location among 600 acres of property just off U.S. Route 1, which could see further increase in traffic in terms of both contractor and employee vehicles in the area as the facility is eventually constructed and completed. According to Governor Ralph Northam, they expect to have the new Central State Hospital ready for occupancy in the next five years.

Earlier this month, Bonner said she has seen congestion increase in the area of the two facilities, particularly when traffic is detoured off nearby Interstate 85 and directed to U.S. Route 1 due to an accident.

“When they do that, there is going to be a lot of traffic coming down Route 1 and then we will have traffic coming from both sides, across from Dominion and Central State,” she said. “Right now, it’s just the service trucks and the employees from the hospital.”

According to Thornton, VDOT has had a few meetings with members of the county’s staff along with representatives with Dominion Energy and, at their most recent meeting, the state transportation agency has requested additional information to meet “the warrants,” or thresholds that would permit the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Route 318 but, as of this month’s board of supervisors meeting, VDOT has not heard back from Dominion.

“The ball is in Dominion Energy’s court because they have asked for a signal at that location and we have requested the warrant analysis data from them and they have yet to provide that to VDOT or the county,” the residency administrator remarked. “They have asked for it but, they have the data right now, but we are working on getting it.”

In a general sense, when a traffic signal is sought for an intersection, VDOT’s traffic engineers look at a number of different metrics, including the number of vehicles that use the crossroad, the physical characteristics of the roadway, traffic delays in the area during peak hours, and roadside development, among other data.

Over the last several years as the Cox Road corridor has grown in terms of business development between the site where Dominion Energy will soon call home, southward past the Westgate shopping center toward to the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and 460, VDOT has completed a number of safety improvements to help move traffic through the area safely and more efficiently.

In 2016, VDOT completed a series of improvements to the intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Cox Road and nearby Ferndale Road. The intersection of U.S. Route 1 and Cox Road was widened to better accommodate turning movements for vehicular and cyclist traffic. Less than a half-mile away, a single-lane roundabout was installed at the intersection of Cox and Ferndale Road, which also provides access to Westgate Shopping Center nearby, home to Food Lion and the newly opened Pizza Hut restaurant, among other popular stores.

Additionally, planned improvements at the intersection of Ritchie Avenue are expected to be implemented in the coming weeks, which will include, according to a report from Thornton earlier in the spring around the time the project had been expected to begin, the removal of the center lane striping and concrete median on the south side of the intersection, opening the area up to allow for a dedicated turn lane to be installed at the intersection to help with access to Ritchie Avenue and the Taco Bell restaurant.

Once that work is completed, Thornton told supervisors new signals would be installed at the intersection.

The work was slated to be done during the summer but, funds from the project were used to help pay for the costs associated with the development of a modified median U-turn along U.S. Route 460 and Courthouse Road, which is currently in the public comment phase as they would to determine the next steps of that project.

During this month’s report to supervisors, Thornton said the agency opted to wait until after the Dinwiddie County Fair wrapped earlier this month before doing any work to avoid creating lane closures during a high-profile, heavily attended event that sees eventgoers use U.S. Route 1 as their main route to Virginia Motorsports Park, the host venue for the annual fair.

Speaking specifically to questions regarding how VDOT handles traffic spikes when travelers are detoured from I-85 onto U.S. Route 1, Thornton said the agency monitors intersections in the area and work to adjust signal timing within their traffic operations center to allow more vehicles to get through the traffic signals in the county while also contacting the City of Petersburg, who controls their own signals, to see if they can do the same within their city limits.

After that, Thornton said, “if the volume or incident duration ran longer than we could handle, then we would call state police as well as the county to see about getting some folks in there to direct traffic at the signals.”

“When you are talking about six miles of two-lane interstate traffic going onto one lane of U.S. Route 1, it backs up pretty quick,” he closed.

With VDOT currently awaiting the warrant analysis from Dominion Energy for the signal, a timetable for its installation and if it will be in place, should it be approved, prior to the utility company’s new headquarters being completed by year-end is unknown.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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