Construction winds down at new Benn’s intersection

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, August 31, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Probably the most controversial and long-studied intersection in recent Isle of Wight County history is winding up construction.

Motorists using the new Benn’s Church intersection will now pass through what is called the final traffic configuration.

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There may be some small lane closures as crews complete finishing touches and clean-up, but all lanes and signals are complete, said Isle of Wight Project Manager Jamie Oliver.

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The intersection cost an estimated $5 million.  

Isle of Wight County fronted the funds to begin the project, as required by VDOT. VDOT was to pay half the cost, and the neighboring developers of Benn’s Grant, St. Luke’s and Riverside, were to cover the other half. The plan was that the project would ultimately not incur a cost to Isle of Wight County taxpayers.

In late 2013, the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors approved a deal likened as a “public-private partnership” with the Benn’s Grant landowners, who agreed to repay the $1.45 million with money obtained through proffers. According to the deal, the landowners must pay the entire portion by Jan. 15, 2019 or face having a lien put on the property. The landowners also agreed to pay a “service charge” of $45,000 a year to cover expenses related to the county having to front the cost of the road improvements.

The remaining $951,686 is to come from St. Luke’s Village, Riverside and the O’Neal property.

The Benn’s Grant landowners have also paid out $515,000 for right-of-way acquisition and engineering and design costs.

The intersection, long considered in need of improvement, received increased scrutiny as plans for large mixed-use developments around the area — notably Benn’s Grant — began being proposed and approved.

At one point, a fly-over was floated as a possible solution to the often-congested intersection. Ultimately, planners settled on adding a road south of Benn’s United Methodist Church to alleviate traffic heading to and from the James River Bridge.

Traffic counts have remained relatively steady, about 25,000 to 26,000 vehicles a day, from 2005 to 2015, according to VDOT.

However, construction is heating up at Benn’s Grant. As of July, there have been 107 building permits issued in Isle of Wight County, according to the U.S. Census.  Of those, 43 have been at Benn’s Grant, according to the Isle of Wight County Department of Inspections.