Grace Street repaving pushed to 2026 in VDOT plan; mayor ‘perplexed’

Published 3:54 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

The Virginia Department of Transportation will begin replacing damaged sections of sidewalk and curb-and-gutter drainage infrastructure along Grace Street this summer, but will delay repaving the road until 2026.

VDOT, which had originally planned to repave the street this year, announced the two-phase approach on May 30, citing “discussions with the Town of Smithfield officials to implement a revised maintenance of traffic plan for the adjacent Cypress Creek bridge replacement project” as the reason for the change.

Smithfield’s Town Council had discussed in February whether to ask VDOT to delay the work because of the frequent rush-hour traffic jams on Main Street, also known as Route 258, since the January start of a nearly two-year rehabilitation of the Cypress Creek Bridge, which connects downtown with the east end of town. Grace Street is the designated alternate Route 258.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“VDOT’s revisions to these plans will minimize further traffic impacts for the residents and businesses in and around Downtown Smithfield,” VDOT stated in a news release.

Though some council members in February favored a delay, Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman said the council was ultimately unanimous in requesting that Grace Street be repaved as planned this summer despite the concurrent restricting of the Cypress Creek Bridge to one-way traffic headed into downtown.

“We in no way were responsible to asking for a delay,” Bowman said. “VDOT advised us that the delay was required due to a drainage design flaw that was caught by an engineer at the last minute. I am perplexed as to why VDOT would indicate we asked for the delay.”

Town Manager Michael Stallings said VDOT had requested a meeting with town officials earlier this month. At that meeting, he said, VDOT identified issues with the drainage system serving Grace Street and said it would need to delay the repaving to complete needed improvements.

“This was a decision made by VDOT in order to provide the best possible outcome for the town and those that travel along Grace Street,” Stallings said.

VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Alvord, in response to Bowman’s remarks, confirmed to The Smithfield Times that “while VDOT did meet with and correspond with Town officials on the need to revise the plans to address Grace Street, VDOT was responsible for initiating this new approach.”

Alvord said the sidewalk and curb-and-gutter work could still result in intermittent, single-lane closures of the road under flagger control, as well as sidewalk closures within the right-of-way.

“This is subject to change as the full schedule is not yet finalized,” Alvord said. “Crews will communicate directly with Grace Street residents and businesses when work is expected in their immediate vicinity.”

When the second phase begins in 2026, VDOT plans to repave the road using what it refers to as full depth reclamation, or FDR, which entails pulverizing recycled asphalt from the existing roadway, mixing it with a stabilizing agent and relaying the material as a base layer over which new asphalt is poured. The process saves VDOT time and money, according to the state agency’s news release.

Delaying the repaving until after the bridge reopens to two-way traffic could result in the work coinciding with another project. An Isle of Wight County-administered $8.4 million widening of Main Street at the Route 10 Bypass intersection is slated to begin in January 2026.