Speed study recommends few changes to Cary Street

Published 6:51 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Consultants who completed a speed study on Cary Street for the town of Smithfield are recommending minimal changes to the 30 mph road.

Burns Service Inc., a Raleigh, North Carolina-based company, recorded traffic volumes and speeds April 8-14 turning from Main Street onto Cary, and on Cary from its 100 block to just the town border where it becomes Mill Swamp Road.

The data showed an average 1,900 vehicles per day on weekdays and nearly 2,900 on weekends, with 85% of traffic in the 200 block of Cary traveling at or below 33 mph. The remaining 15% are traveling 4 mph or more above the posted speed limit.

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From the Luter Family YMCA to the edge of town where Cary Street becomes Mill Swamp, speeds averaged 36 mph with 85% driving at or below 43.6 mph. The speed limit on the half-mile stretch of road increases from 30 mph to 45 mph where the road passes under the Route 10 Bypass.

The study, compiled by Glen Allen-based Gorove Slade, showed weekend drivers going faster than weekday drivers, and those headed into town from Mill Swamp going 1-2 mph faster than those headed out of town.

The study recommends relocating the 30 mph speed limit sign on the northbound side of the road 550 feet to the south, repainting the existing double yellow divider line and installing a pole-mounted, solar-powered display on the 30 mph sign that would show drivers their speed as measured by radar.

The pole-mounted sign is projected to achieve a 5 mph reduction in speed and is estimated at $8,500.

“We’ve already purchased two,” said Town Manager Michael Stallings.

According to Virginia Department of Transportation data cited in the study, there were six collisions along Cary Street from its intersection with Main to its intersection with Goose Hill Way from 2019 through 2023, none of which were attributed to speeding.

The study also priced speed humps and speed lumps each at $2,500 apiece, but is not recommending they be implemented. Speed lumps, according to the study, contain breaks to allow wider vehicles like fire trucks to maintain speed. A speed table or raised crosswalk, which are similar but longer than speed humps or speed lumps, is estimated to achieve the highest reduction in speed, at 6-9 mph, but would carry a cost of $6,000 to $10,000 apiece.

Traffic on Cary and other downtown streets was among the concerns critics of the Grange at 10Main development had raised last year ahead of the Town Council’s vote in December to grant mixed-use zoning for 267 residences and a mix of commercial uses at the 57-acre former Pierceville farm at the western edge of the town’s historic district. Grange developer Joseph Luter IV told the town’s Planning Commission in November that revised plans now include a proposed turn lane from Cary into the development to encourage drivers to reach Main Street by way of the Grange rather than continuing on Cary through downtown. VDOT estimated in October that the Grange would add 4,700 daily vehicular trips spread across Main, Grace and Cary streets and Route 10.

Michael Bailey, an engineer with Gorove Slade, estimated the study area’s capacity at 15,000 trips per day.

“You’ve got quite a bit of capacity,” Bailey told Smithfield’s Town Council at a May 28 committee meeting.

Mayor Steve Bowman said in his experience as the town’s former police chief the perception of the speed of vehicles by area residents doesn’t always match reality as measured by radar.

“It appears that vehicles are traveling faster,” Bowman said.

Stallings said the town’s plan is to collect more data a month after installing the purchased solar-powered speed monitoring signs.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, on May 17, signed legislation allowing towns to reduce speed limits on 25 mph state-maintained roads to no less than 15 mph.