Carrollton traffic

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Growth in Isle of Wight corridor equals more lights, more traffic

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

If change can be measured in stoplights, then it’s been four-fold in Carrollton over the past 30 years — with six signals now stopping and starting traffic along Route 17 between the James River and Crittenden bridges. 

And the burgeoning traffic seems to be the biggest complaint of long-time residents of the area.

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Once upon a time, motorists may have encountered two stoplights after coming from the James River Bridge and before arriving at the Benn’s Church intersection. Those were at Smiths Neck Road and the Bartlett intersection. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Today, there are two stoplights to navigate before arriving at Smith’s Neck Road and another is planned for sometime in the future at Northgate, along with another proposed at the new Nike Park extension, according to the Brewer’s Neck Corridor Study, which was approved by the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors in 2014. 

Another two stoplights have also been added along Route 17 between the Bartlett intersection and the Crittenden Bridge.

For long time Carrollton resident Jim Henderson, traffic is the biggest change he’s seen in the area, along with more stores, but those are not enough to matter, he said. Residential growth has outpaced commercial growth, which doesn’t help the tax base, Henderson said. 

Today, there is a major grocery store, two shopping centers, restaurants, a drug store, apartments and more around the Smith’s Neck intersection where there were once only trees and a bare field used for commuter parking.  

Bill Heriford said he used to call where he lives, off Reynolds Road, a “wilderness” when he and his family moved here 26 years ago. 

The traffic, as well as the multiple apartment complexes, now remind Heriford more of Hampton and Newport News.

“Times have changed,” he said. 

Del. Emily Brewer, R-64, said the traffic along Route 17 near the James River Bridge was the biggest issue she had heard of since taking office. She, along with local officials, pushed VDOT a few months ago to change the timing of the lights along that corridor to cut down on congestion during peak hours. 

Reviews on that have been mixed.

Meanwhile, many others have recently moved to Isle of Wight to escape what some call the “rat race,” crime and congestion across the river, but still be close enough to commute to work — despite the traffic on Route 17.

Traffic along Route 17 came up Thursday during an intergovernmental meeting between members of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors and the Smithfield and Windsor town councils.

Isle of Wight County Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning Richard Rudnicki said that 80 percent of the county’s population leaves in the morning for work and returns in the evening. Part of the county’s future planning challenges includes lowering that percentage, he said.

To illustrate the increase, in 1995, an average of 19,000 vehicles traveled from the Bartlett intersection along Carrollton Boulevard north toward the James River Bridge. By 2017, that number had increased to 29,000, according VDOT traffic data. 

Isle of Wight Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said that not only is there more traffic originating from the new housing developments in the county, but residents of growing northern Suffolk and beyond also use Route 17 and the James River Bridge to commute to and from work. 

Building more lanes along Route 17 will only increase traffic, he said. 

Besides, adding lanes would not help with the James River Bridge, as there are no plans to widen that any time in the near future, said Newport District Supervisor William McCarty. 

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson said the county knows it has a traffic problem, but at the same time keeps approving new developments — and wondered if that continues to be necessary. 

In addition to the new apartment complexes and construction at Benn’s Grant, there are another 2,000 or so units approved, but yet to be built in the northern end of Isle of Wight. 

Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree, quoting a former county official, said that one way to stop growth is to create a county where no one wants to live. 

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton, who attends Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission meetings, said that when the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel expansion is completed, excess traffic may no longer be urged to use the James River Bridge — and perhaps that will result in some relief. 


Roads projects in the works

Two VDOT roads projects are currently in the works along Route 17 and Brewer’s Neck Boulevard, known as the Bartlett intersection, as well as an extension of Nike Park Road.  

The Bartlett intersection improvements include adding a second, exclusive northbound left turn lane. 

The improvements are designed to increase traffic capacity and support future economic developments in the region, according to VDOT. 

The developers of The Crossings, located to the east of the intersection, are expected to contribute to the cost. 

The one-mile extension of Nike Park Road to Route 17 is the first phase of a long-term project to transform Nike Park Road into a four-lane divided roadway. The project includes adding turn lanes and traffic signals between Northgate Drive and the Route 17/258 intersection. 

The extension will be located between Northgate and the Bartlett intersection.  {/mprestriction}