460 improvements are still years away

Published 10:40 am Wednesday, February 28, 2018

By Elizabeth Pattman

Staff Writer

WINDSOR — It will likely take six years for safety improvements to begin along Route 460, while paving portions of the highway is scheduled for this year and possibly the next, according to VDOT.

Most of the proposed improvements are east of the town of Windsor and thus will not include the town’s six-way intersection, according to VDOT.

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Isle of Wight County and the City of Suffolk requested that a safety and operations study be completed along a six-mile stretch of Rt. 460, which spans from the Rt. 460 and Rt. 58 interchange in Suffolk to the eastern town limits of Windsor, according to VDOT representative Jerry Pauley and VHB Inc. consultant Kirsten Tynch.

Results of the study were discussed in a public meeting Feb. 20. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The study examined traffic patterns, crash data and road conditions, which VHB, an engineering consulting firm based in Virginia Beach, used to make recommendations for improvements. 

As may be expected, the study found that traffic along the corridor built up most during evening rush hours. Proposed measures to lessen traffic included increasing green time on side street traffic lights, implementing flashing yellow arrows on stoplights at certain intersections, and changing lane usages at some of the busiest intersections.

While traffic was a major concern, many more of the improvements suggested by VHB came from analyzed crash data. 

Between 2012 and 2016, there were 242 crashes within the six-mile corridor, according to VHB consultant Christine Potocki. The majority of these incidents were rear-end collisions, angled crashes that occurred when vehicles collided while turning, and incidents where vehicles ran off the roadway. 

The VHB consultants used a three-tier recommendation system to suggest roadway improvements that would improve safety and operations. These included clearing vegetation for better visibility, enforcing speed limits, widening the shoulder of the road, adding turning lanes, improving signage and others. 

A combination of these recommendations were given for 11 different sites along Rt. 460 that have seen high crash numbers. These included Northfield Drive, Rob’s Drive, Kings Fork Road, Lake Prince Drive, Prudence Road, Gardner Lane, 1,200 feet east of Gardner, Old Myrtle Road, 2,200 feet west of Old Myrtle, as well as areas just east of Ennis Mill Road and east of Old Suffolk Road.

The majority of proposed improvements will be implemented in Suffolk. For Windsor residents, the only changes being made within town limits will be at the site just east of Old Suffolk Road. At this intersection, proposed countermeasures include adding an acceleration/deceleration lane or a two-way left turn lane, increasing speed enforcement, trimming vegetation, and clearing out drainage ditches to maintain roadway stability for an estimated cost of $407,000.

The intersection of Rt.460 and Old Myrtle Road in Suffolk would be the most expensive project, according to estimates by VBH and VDOT. Proposed countermeasures to increase safety at the site include paving driveway aprons, installing intersection warning lights in both directions and adding turning and acceleration lanes, which is estimated to cost $897,246 for construction and maintenance.

On the other hand, the site on Rt. 460 that is 1,200 feet east of Gardner Lane in Suffolk would be the least expensive project. Proposed countermeasures here are limited to paving driveway aprons and widening the shoulder of the road. The estimated cost is $110,894.

If all proposed countermeasures were implemented at all 11 sites, the total project would cost an estimated $6.1 million, according to VHB.

Small portions of the funding could come from county and city maintenance budgets, but the majority of the funding would need to be applied for. VDOT is recommending that Isle of Wight and the City of Suffolk apply for Smart Scale funding to complete the projects. Smart Scale is a new funding program from VDOT that uses a modified cost/benefit ratio to determine which projects are best to provide funding for. If the proposed projects along Rt. 460 are found to be beneficial and cost effective, they will be fully funded by VDOT.

VHB will be finalizing their recommendations for Rt. 460 by March, at which point Isle of Wight and Suffolk could begin applying for funding. Projects that will receive funding by the Smart Scale program will be chosen near December, according to Pauley. 

However, if the Rt. 460 projects are approved, construction would not begin immediately. According to Pauley, VDOT uses a six-year plan to secure funding for their Smart Scale projects, so work would not begin on Rt. 460 until 2024.

Other grant options are available through VDOT that may not require as much waiting time, but according to Pauley, it is unlikely that the county or city would take on the entire cost to make repairs sooner.

At this time, routine paving along some parts of Rt. 460 is scheduled for this year and is a possibility for 2019 as well, according to VDOT.

Residents who attended the meeting Tuesday were concerned with the lack of progress being made on the road and seemed unimpressed with how long it may take to see improvements.

“460 can’t take much more with no upkeep,” said Billy Gwaltney, a Windsor resident who lives near Rt. 460. “Something’s got to be done.”

Others were concerned that Smart Scale funding won’t be available for smaller projects and as such the work will not get done. VDOT assured attendees that small projects like many of the proposed countermeasures do very well in securing Smart Scale funding.

Another meeting to discuss the results of the safety and operations study was held Thursday evening at Kings Fork Middle School in Suffolk.

VDOT will be accepting written comments about the improvements until March 5. Comments can be submitted to project manager Jerry Pauley at 1700 N. Main St., Suffolk, VA 23434 or via email at jerry.pauley@vdot.virginia.gov  {/mprestriction}