- Published on Wednesday, 21 November 2012 00:00
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Dahlgren Road project:
While public opposition to the Dahlgren Road improvement project continues to grow, the previous unanimity on the issue by the Board of Supervisors could be disintegrating.
When the topic was first brought forward to the board earlier this year, the members were unanimous in opposing the project to widen the road to enable faster speeds through the intersection for commuters with little regard for providing increased safety for turning vehicles at the complicated intersection where three roads come together.
Over the spring and summer, several letters were authorized by the board to go to Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) reps, stressing the need for a safer intersection that would require less land to be acquired, cause fewer disruptions to residents and business owners, and be less costly.
The acquisition of property by VDOT is supposed to be on hold until at least after next week’s get-together on Monday, Nov. 26.
In July, the board’s last letter asked VDOT to suspend the project for 90 days to allow the county time to further review the project and to assess legal and financial issues.
Whether the board decides to endorse the project or attempt to stop it, decision time is looming.
VDOT’s plan is planning a $4.1 million project along Dahlgren Road at the intersections with Owens Drive (Route 624) and Windsor Drive (Route 218) Road.
The Dahlgren Road improvement project is slated to widen the road and provide turn lanes.
The original budget called for construction costs estimated at $2,100,000, along with $500,000 for engineering design and $1,500,000 for acquisition of right-of-way, with 80 percent of the funding coming from federal funding and 20 percent provided by the state.
It is significant that the project is so far only funded through the ‘acquisition of property’ stage, which began last March. That’s when the proposed plan started drawing adverse comments and criticism from landowners and county officials alike.
WHERE DO SUPERVISORS STAND ON THE ISSUE?
Where do Supervisors currently stand on VDOT’s proposed plan? Two are clearly against VDOT’s current plan and the other three appear to be undecided.
Dahlgren Supervisor Ruby Brabo is against widening the road to provide turn lanes. She would like to instead have discussion of a possible roundabout at the intersection and has also expressed a desire for a traffic signal, which has long been requested by Supervisors.
James Monroe Supervisor John LoBuglio has also suggested adding flashing warning lights on either side of the intersection, at a minimum.
Both are in agreement that they would be in favor of exploring construction of a roundabout, which is an idea put forward by Brabo, drawing from VDOT documents and recent legislation to bolster consideration of the notion.
Brabo and others contend that widening the intersection would only serve to add to the number of lanes of traffic that turning vehicles need to cross, resulting in the likelihood of increasing ‘angular’ collisions.
In contrast, VDOT officials have stressed that their intention for the intersection is to make it safer by improving traffic flow without reducing the speed for commuters. They have stated that the engineering design will allow for increased speed by through-traffic past the intersection.
Chairman Cedell Brooks from Shiloh and at-large Supervisor Dale Sisson are taking a wait-and-see attitude until next week’s meeting with VDOT officials, when the agency is expected to show off their amended design for the intersection.
Brooks stated on Nov. 6 about the intersection, “This board has always been concerned about the safety there.” He added, “Let’s give VDOT a chance and then if they don’t, then we’ll jump up and down.”
James Madison Supervisor Joe Grzeika has also not made his current stance clear. He did suggest at the meeting on Oct. 16 that the board talk to VDOT reps at the upcoming meeting about safety issues, saying, “I think we ask how their design addresses the safety concerns.”
He has also stated more than once that the county can address guidance for county road improvements through the language to be inserted into the county’s Comprehensive Plan, which is under review.
PROJECT DRAWS MORE COMMENTS
The project again drew comments from residents earlier this month during a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Nov. 6. Some spoke at public comment against the project, including Laurie Robinette, Heath Taylor and Dottie Burgess.
Brabo read or conveyed additional comments she had received from several others, including Tona Haywood, high school student Daniel Grigg, Betty Grigg and Kim Hagaman.
Brabo also cited an opinion on the VDOT design from the county school division’s Ray Newton in his capacity as director of transportation.
Brabo read Newton’s comments, “These changes would continue to restrict our turning ability and would possibly enhance an already dangerous intersection by vehicles attempting to cross five lanes of traffic in an attempt to turn left on Dahlgren Road from either Owens Drive or Windsor Drive. Increasing the speed limit and adding turning lanes in this area would also impact the safety for school buses stopping to load/discharge students.”
She added, “Mr. Newton feels in his opinion that the current design without a traffic signal would potentially be more dangerous for school buses. There has already been one accident involving a school bus at that intersection and he does not wish to see more.”
Later during that same meeting, Sheriff Steve Dempsey said he had been asked to give his opinion on the proposed improvements planned for the intersection. He stated, “In my opinion, from a safety standpoint, a light is always the best solution.”