, 2015

Intersection improvements may
continue without traffic signal

by Renss Greene

HEATHSVILLE—Northumberland County staff and two supervisors met with Virginia Department of Transportation officials August 4 to make their case for a traffic light at the intersection of Academic Lane and Northumberland Highway.

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Board chairman Ronnie Jett and member Joe Self criticized a proposed VDOT project to extend turn lanes at the intersection, arguing that a traffic light would be more important for safety.

“This [turn lane extension] does nothing, in my opinion, for what we were about, which is safety,” said Jett.

“I don’t know what the thought process was for all of this, but I just don’t think it’s been looked at with a common sense approach at all,” Self said, repeating a criticism he had made at July’s board meeting.

“It helps with safety by moving those vehicles out of the through lane,” said VDOT Northern Neck residency administrator David Brown.

“I know it sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes signals in and of themselves at intersections where they’re not fully warranted can cause accidents as well,” added assistant district administrator Michelle Shropshire, who oversees engineering plans for the Fredericksburg district.

The traffic light issue first came up with a request to the board of supervisors to approve a transfer of excess funds from a project at the intersection of Indian Valley Road and Northumberland Highway to start work at the intersection with Academic Lane. VDOT’s plan for the Academic Lane intersection includes longer turn lanes at the intersection to ease congestion. The board tabled the request in hopes of convincing VDOT to install a signal light at the intersection.

Brown told the meeting that the proposed improvements would be the same whether a signal was installed or not, and confirmed that the longer the funds are left unallocated, the more likely they would be to wind up on a different project elsewhere in the state.

“How can this be made to happen with the light at the same time?” Self asked “Or are you saying it’s this way or no way?”

VDOT officials explained that to install a traffic signal, an intersection must meet certain requirements regarding traffic volume, pedestrian crossings, crash history, and other factors. Federal funding, explained Shropshire, also plays a role in VDOT’s projects, and part of the funding for this $1.1 million project would come from federal money.

“We can’t use federal funds on a project to install signals that aren’t warranted,” she said. “That’s one of the caveats that comes with the federal funds on the project.”

“I guess to keep it moving, the best thing for us to do is see if the rest of the board will go along with approving the money,” Self said. Brown said VDOT will send workers to get new traffic volume counts at the intersection in late September or October. The state can then reevaluate the need for a signal.

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