Editorial – Town’s on a roll with VDOT; keep pushing

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Turns out that you can reason with VDOT.

State Del. Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman get a ton of credit for persuading the Virginia Department of Transportation to postpone the long-dreaded bridge rehabilitation over Cypress Creek at Smithfield Station until after the holidays. 

While it had been long known that the bridge would be reduced to alternating one-lane traffic for the better part of two years, VDOT abruptly announced last month that the contractor would begin the work on Dec. 5, crippling downtown commerce during the most lucrative time of year for merchants.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Brewer, who will be seated next month as state senator for Isle of Wight and Western Tidewater, appealed to VDOT at the behest of Bowman, and back came the good news that the work would be delayed until January. We thank them both.

It just goes to show that this community has more clout with VDOT than we’ve given ourselves credit for. With that in mind, community leadership should:

  • Go back to VDOT and plead for an excellent change recommended by Town Councilman and Smithfield Station proprietor Randy Pack, who has said that the town would be better off making the South Church Street bridge traffic one-way for the long duration of the project. This would ensure that traffic is always moving and never backs up into the residential part of South Church, blocking driveways for long periods.
  • On a bigger scale, be buoyed to lobby for a Route 10 interchange in and out of the Grange at 10Main, which was set to be ramrodded through by a shorthanded, scandal-plagued Town Council at its Dec. 5 meeting.

As it stands, traffic from the 267-unit residential development and adjacent commercial activity will pipe thousands of additional cars a day onto historic district streets, including Grace and Cary, the crown jewels of downtown living.

The ability to enter and leave the development via Route 10 would fix the controversial project’s most fundamental flaw, which is overwhelming our quaint, historic downtown with motorized vehicles.

To this point, community leaders have professed hopelessness about selling VDOT on a Route 10 interchange and been completely unwilling to make developer Joe Luter IV pursue it.

Luter, his LSMP LLC, which owns the Grange property, having given Gov. Glenn Youngkin a cool million bucks in the last gubernatorial election, should be leading the way in lobbying VDOT. The governor’s largest non-PAC contribution in a successful campaign surely gets Luter and Smithfield officials access to VDOT bosses.

As Brewer and Bowman showed us last week, good things happen when you at least try.