As Carrollton grows, County responsible for road priorities

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, May 4, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Motorists and residents commuting along Route 17 in Carrollton are accustomed to back-ups and heavy traffic, but how to alleviate it is not totally in the hands of the Commonwealth.

The decision to add lanes along Route 17 in Carrollton starts at the county level, according to VDOT.

With the advent of House Bill 2, Isle of Wight County would have to submit the project for scoring and funding under HB2, said VDOT spokesperson Paula Miller.

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“It puts the ball in their court in terms of prioritizing projects,” she said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

A flurry of construction along Route 17 near Eagle Harbor, including a new 208-unit luxury apartment complex, Dunkin’ Donuts, a 7-Eleven and more, have many residents concerned about how the four-lane highway is going to handle the traffic.

But adding four lanes along Carrollton Boulevard, for a total of eight lanes, doesn’t address the James River Bridge, which has just four lanes. The JRB is only one of three routes to the Peninsula from the south side of the James River. The other two are the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in Suffolk and the Scotland-Jamestown Ferry in Surry County.

Widening the James River Bridge isn’t on anyone’s radar, said Isle of Wight County Project Manager Jamie Oliver, adding that the JRB is a regional issue.

“It’s absolutely incumbent that you have to keep a regional perspective,” she said.

The only plan in play for the JRB right now is the design phase for the rehabilitation of all its electrical, mechanical and control components, and there is no funding currently allocated for it, according to VDOT.

At the same time, there is some consideration by the city of Suffolk concerning the widening of the Crittenden Bridge, which is at the other end of Route 17 in Isle of Wight County, Oliver said.

Isle of Wight County’s plan to marry growth with transportation in the Newport Development Service District can be found in its Brewers Neck Corridor Study, which was approved in early 2014.

Route 17, which includes Carrollton Boulevard, as well as Brewers Neck Boulevard, is included in the plan. Widening Carrollton Boulevard was slated for the 2019-2029 time frame, according to the study.

However, the plan was approved shortly before HB2 was passed in 2014. The first round of projects is now making its way through the process. 

Isle of Wight County submitted one project included in the Brewers Neck Corridor Study this year for scoring under HB2 — the Nike Park extension from Reynolds Drive to Route 17.

The one mile-long project is expected to cost $11.6 million and would provide an alternate route to Smithfield and other parts of Isle of Wight County.

It received a project benefit score of 1.5 and was ranked 17th out of 40 projects regionally for HB2 cost and 12 out 40 for total cost. The project scored highest, 10.8, for economic development, in that it would improve travel time reliability, as well as scoring 3 and 2.2 for congestion mitigation.

Congestion mitigation receives the most weight in the Hampton Roads region, according to the parameters of HB2.  HB2 was designed to score transportation projects in a more objective way and take the politics out of the process, according to one state official.

Based on scoring criteria, projects are either advanced to the Commonwealth Transportation Board for final consideration or not.  

After the Nike Park extension, the next priority is widening Brewer’s Neck Boulevard by four more lanes, Oliver said, adding that it would also be submitted under HB2.

Meanwhile, every new construction project, such as the new luxury apartments and new retail outlets, must complete a traffic study before it is approved, said Isle of Wight County Project Manager Jamie Oliver.

Those plans, which could include turn lanes and new traffic signals, are then reviewed by VDOT, she said.

For example, the new luxury apartments are slated to use the existing intersection but add a traffic signal when traffic counts indicate it’s necessary, said Isle of Wight Director of Planning and Zoning Beverly Walkup.

Each new traffic analysis takes into account every previous TIA that was completed in that area, said Walkup, adding that an approved development typically takes about 15 years to complete, while the traffic analyses are for about the next six years and so are over-estimates.

Commercial development typically generates more traffic than residential, she said.

Approved, and in some cases, under construction, in the Brewer’s Neck-Carrollton Boulevard area is Eagle Harbor Tract 8 apartments, Benn’s Grant, St. Luke’s Village, Archer’s Meade, Bridgeport Commons, the Crossings, Brewer’s Station and Carrollton Manor. All except Archer’s Meade and Carrollton Manor include commercial development and represent 1,815 housing units. Those housing units include single-family homes, apartments, condominiums and townhouses.

Walkup said that in addition to new construction within the county, traffic is always impacted by what is going on outside Isle of Wight’s borders, such as the shipyard adding a shift, or growth in Suffolk.

“You’re always going to have regional traffic on those roads,” she said.

The Brewers Neck Corridor Plan is designed to provide “collector” roads to keep local traffic off the main arterials, such as Route 17, Walkup said.  {/mprestriction}