By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: December 29, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – The start of the year will see the Virginia Department of Transportation open the floor to the community for comments on a planned traffic improvement project along one of the county’s busiest roadways.
On January 16, VDOT officials will be on hand at Walton Elementary School for a formal public information session on a planned multimillion-dollar traffic circle project that aims to help traffic flow along Courthouse and Bull Hill Road.
The plan calls for a dogbone-type traffic circle to be installed at the intersection, replacing the current skewed intersection that has become a traffic hazard in recent years as increasing numbers of drivers utilize Courthouse Road to access the center of the county and its link to neighboring Petersburg, along with more residential traffic in the area.
“A roundabout will effectively align approaches to increase sight distance and remove conflict points caused by poor sight distance,” state documents detail. “Currently, vehicles approaching on northbound or southbound Bull Hill Road attempting to make right turn movements have to look at an obtuse angle to make a turning decision. The proposed improvement is a single-lane roundabout with a dogbone shape that has two equivalent circles on either end.”
“In addition, the extensive skewed angle of intersection creates further safety problems,” state documents detail. “A roundabout will effectively align approaches to increase sight distance and remove conflict points caused by poor sight distance.”
This project was one of many that were funded through the state’s Smart Scale program, which sees various state transportation projects be scored on an “objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers.”
In project documents, traffic data suggests “A majority (55%) of the crashes within the functional area of the Route 106/Route 630 intersection are angle crashes; many of which involve a vehicle from the side street attempting to enter the mainline roadway and misjudging an approaching vehicle on the mainline,” with the intersection’s skewed configuration being seen as a contributing factor to the need to redesign the roadway.
As part of their research, data from traffic crashes that occurred within 500 feet of the intersection between January 2010 through December 2014 was looked at. What transportation officials found was that a total of 13 crashes occurred in that area.
While none of the crashes were fatal accidents, nearly half did see some form of injuries reported, while the remainder were solely property damage.
The data also shows a vast majority of the crashes, 12 of 13, occurred during the daylight hours.
The project’s SmartScale application also points to the roadway’s increased use by travelers, particularly those working at Fort Lee or wanting to use Courthouse Road as a thoroughfare to access other primary routes, like U.S. Route 460 and Interstates 95 and 295.
“This intersection and roadway is a main route to/from the Fort Lee activity center, both for workforce and military personnel living in the County,” officials explained. “It also provides access to the Diamond Park retail center and the SouthPointe Industrial Park, including the Rolls Royce and CCAM facilities.”
“There are limited mode choice options for workforce living in Prince George and Dinwiddie to reach other activity centers in the region and likewise there is limited mode choice for workers to reach emerging activity centers in these counties from adjacent jurisdictions,” they added.
In 2017, the Bull Hill-Courthouse Road intersection improvement project received the fourth-highest score from state officials among projects within VDOT’s Richmond District, which includes a number of large localities, including Chesterfield and Henrico, among others, and 33rd among 400 statewide projects.
According to VDOT officials, the meeting at Walton Elementary School on January 16, a short drive from where the proposed work would take place, will be an open forum, which “will provide the flexibility to allow participants to meet and discuss the proposed project directly with project staff members.”
Likely to be discussed during the meeting will be the topic of property acquisition and project impacts on local homeowners. As part of the project, state documents show that the purchase of right-of-way on all four quadrants of the intersection will be required. In addition, the proposed concrete splitter island that would be part of all four approaches to the dogbone “may reduce access for property owners” in the area of the intersection.
State documents add, “Two properties, one on the southeast corner and one on the northwest corner, may need to be removed because the existing entrances enter directly into the roundabout.”
The project is expected to cost $5.7 million. Within that, survey, environmental, and design work is estimated to cost just over $928,000. Another $1.1 million has been estimated to cover the costs of right-of-way and easement acquisition, along with utility relocations.
Construction and other related tasks will carry the largest bulk of the $5.7 million estimated price tag at $3.7 million.
The tentative project timeline lists all survey, environmental, and design work will begin in the fall of 2021 and complete in the spring of 2024. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2025 and finish mid-year 2026.
The public information session will be held at Walton Elementary from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on January 16, 2019.
For more information on the project, visit the SmartScale website http://vasmartscale.org, which features an interactive map where projects can be looked at in detail, including supporting documents and other data.