Isle of Wight endorses VDOT plan for Route 17

Published 5:14 pm Monday, December 18, 2023

Isle of Wight County supervisors voted unanimously on Dec. 14 to endorse a Virginia Department of Transportation plan to improve the safety of the Route 17 corridor without significantly widening the four-lane highway.

A VDOT study of the 10.5-mile stretch from the Bartlett intersection where Carrollton and Brewers Neck boulevards meet to Route 17’s interchange with I-664 in Suffolk had proposed three options for redesigning Bartlett. Of these, the supervisors chose what’s known as a “partial displaced left turn lane” that would split traffic turning south onto Brewers Neck from Suffolk from through traffic using a divided median, and create a right turn lane for traffic from Brewers Neck heading east onto Route 17 toward Suffolk.

To reduce the volume of traffic traversing the intersection, the plan calls for cutting off Deep Bottom Drive’s and Channell Way’s intersections with 17 by either turning the cross streets into cul-de-sacs or an intersection that would allow only right-turn traffic in and out.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to Isle of Wight County Transportation Director Jamie Oliver, the partial displaced left turn lane option carries the lowest cost at $15 million to $20 million, is projected to achieve a 20% crash reduction and was the most preferred of the three options among more than 500 participants in a county survey, 91% of whom said they either lived or worked within five miles of the Route 17 corridor. The other two options had called for either a “full quadrant” or “partial quadrant” intersection that would have diverted traffic heading to and from Suffolk onto Deep Bottom Drive, both of which were estimated to cost upwards of $21 million and were projected to achieve only a 10% reduction in crashes by 2040.

At Route 17’s intersection with Ashby Way and Omera Drive, the supervisors opted for what’s known as a “thru-cut,” which would restrict access onto Route 17 from both roads to right-turn traffic only, while still allowing full access onto each side street from Route 17 by reconfiguring the intersection’s median. This option, according to Oliver, carries a $1.5 million to $2.7 million cost, which is lower than the alternative restricted crossing u-turn or RCUT median alternative proposal, but is projected to achieve only a 10% crash reduction by 2040 compared to the RCUT’s 35%. The thru-cut was also the most preferred option among survey-takers.

At Route 17’s intersections with Sugar Hill and Cedar Grove roads, the supervisors chose a “Turbo-T” or “continuous Green-T” intersection over an RCUT, which carries a higher cost but has the advantage of possibly securing a traffic signal for the intersection. A majority of survey-takers supported the Turbo-T over the RCUT at Sugar Hill and support was near even for both options at Cedar Grove, with the Turbo-T securing a slight edge.

According to Oliver, the Turbo-T option carries an estimated cost $1.6 million to $2.6 million and is projected to achieve a 15% crash reduction by 2040. The RCUT, by comparison, was projected to achieve a 55% crash reduction at Sugar Hill and a 35% reduction at Cedar Grove by the same year.

Isle of Wight had applied under VDOT’s Smart Scale cost-to-benefit formula in 2022 for the Turbo-T at Sugar Hill, but the project didn’t make the cut for state funding. Projects approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board for Smart Scale funding get added to the CTB’s six-year improvement plan.

Supervisor Don Rosie applauded the Dec. 14 vote based on the survey results as an exercise in near-direct democracy.

“It’s almost like (the citizens) voted tonight,” Rosie said.