Play ball — but not yet

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, June 21, 2017

VDOT saying turn lane is needed for safety at the ball fields

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

The town of Smithfield had initially expected to be able to open the Joseph Luter Jr. sports complex this year without a turn lane installed at its entrance.

However, the Virginia Department of Transportation has informed the town that it may need to build the turn lane first, which could push the grand opening of the facility back another year, according to Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams.

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VDOT said that not having a completed turn lane at its entrance may create a safety issue for drivers, according to Williams.

That was a few months ago, so things may have changed, but Williams said he hasn’t heard otherwise if they have.

“With VDOT, things just don’t work so fast,” said Williams.  

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VDOT spokesperson Paula Miller said that VDOT has not yet received all of the town’s design plans for the turn lane. The town submitted 60 percent of its design during the first week of May, according to Miller, and VDOT and sent back its review May 19.

Miller said that once the town submits the rest of its design plans for review, VDOT will work with it to resolve any access issues for the facility prior to the turn lane’s implementation.

When the project first started, VDOT hadn’t indicated that the lack of a turn lane at the entrance would be much of an issue, Williams said.

Efforts to reach VDOT to determine if a turn lane was always seen as a state requirement were unsuccessful.

Once approved, the turn lane, which will be paid out of the town’s Urban Fund, will then need to be bid out for construction. Williams said the process could delay the opening of the $4 million ball park for another year.

Back in December, the town had submitted plans to VDOT to install sewer lines extending from the edge of the sports complex and running down to Westside Elementary School toward the beginning of the construction.

However, VDOT recommended that the lines be put in at the same time as the turn lane, to avoid tearing up Route 258 twice.

The town agreed, and elected to nix the sewer installation from its contract with R.A.D. Sports, the contractors building the facility. It was a move estimated to initially save the project $101,000, but would move the sewer line installation to the end of the project at the time the turn lane is put in

In the meantime, with the facility open, the town had planned to use a “pump and haul” waste system at the park until the turn lane could be constructed. That plan presumes the ball field would be open before the town began construction of the turn lane, but the town never said how long it expected to use the pump and haul system or when it would build the turn lane.

The facility, with four ball fields, a multipurpose field and a large central concession building, has been slightly ahead of schedule for completion, according to Williams, shooting for an August completion date. With the rainy weather the past few weeks, however, it might be back to being right on schedule, Williams said.

But it seems to be up to VDOT as to when the facility can open its doors, according to Williams.

“The ball’s in their court,” he said.  {/mprestriction}