POWHATAN –Figuring out how to maximize the county’s potential to accomplish road improvement projects was an important topic of discussion at the Powhatan County Board of Supervisors’ first regular meeting of 2020.
The subject of road improvements came up a few times in the board’s meeting on Monday, Jan. 27 as the supervisors started discussing which projects they and the citizens of Powhatan might want to prioritize.
During the meeting, the board heard presentations from Kyle Bates, resident engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and Bret Schardein, interim county administrator.
One of the main topics of discussion centered on the county’s efforts to win SMART Scale monies for local road projects. SMART Scale is a statewide competitive funding program for transportation projects in Virginia. Localities that want to participate can submit a prescribed number of transportation projects that are then all scored and prioritized. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) uses that information to select the right projects for funding from the pool of applicants.
Application rounds are now open every two years, and Powhatan County began the fourth round of SMART Scale with Schardein’s presentation to the board and an open meeting held on Monday, Feb. 3 at Powhatan County Public Library to gather public input on projects the county might submit.
The list of potential projects changed somewhat after the Jan. 27 meeting as supervisors weighed in on what they thought might be the most pressing needs for traffic flow and public safety.
Staff will summarize the public feedback received to the board at its March 23 regular meeting, at which time the board is expected to pass a resolution selecting up to five projects for pre-screening, Schardein said. Staff will then submit those projects prior to the screening deadline of April 1. VDOT will spend the spring/summer analyzing all projects to determine eligibility. Once the county receives confirmation that the projects are eligible, staff will submit the full applications for the top four projects prior to the Aug. 3 deadline.
The county is seeking public input on the following projects:
* Carter Gallier extension Phase 2 – To complete the work started with Carter Gallier extension currently underway, to connect South Creek with Luck Stone and Page roads, creating a parallel network to Route 60. This project was submitted last round, and while its benefit score was relatively good, the high cost of the project brought down the score and it was not selected for funding. As each round is different, staff believes this application is worth re-visiting this round. Schardein said if the county wanted to try and help its application by pursuing the right of way permissions needed for the project, it could bring down costs. Projected cost: $7,641,557.
* Stavemill Road and Route 60 - Originally proposed in the 2016 Route 60 study, this project would install a second westbound left turn lane; add an overlap phase for the northbound right turn lane; restrict westbound U-turns; and modify the traffic signal to facilitate the above improvements. Larry Nordvig, who represents District 2, emphasized how much of a safety hazard exists at the intersection that needs to be addressed. Projected cost: $1,054,000.
* Red Lane Road and Route 60 - Proposed in the draft Route 60 Corridor Preservation Study, this would construct a continuous green T (CGT) intersection, consisting of a protected acceleration lane for traffic turning from Red Lane, heading east on 60. This would allow the eastbound traffic on 60 to pass through the intersection continuously, without the need for a red light in that direction. Projected cost: $1 to $2 million.
* Village sidewalks – This proposal would involve constructing sidewalks and associated crosswalks along one side of Old Buckingham Road between Powhatan Middle School and Mann Road, which is approximately 0.7 miles. The proposed sidewalks would connect to existing sidewalks to the Courthouse Village, as well as an existing sidewalk along Mann Road. The proposed sidewalks would connect Powhatan Middle School and Powhatan Elementary School to Fighting Creek Park, Powhatan County Public Library, Powhatan YMCA, and other destinations in the Village. Projected cost: $1.9 million.
* Route 13/Skaggs Road sidewalks – Add sidewalks/lighting along the east/south side of Skaggs Road between the existing sidewalk on Route 13 and Tilman Road, connecting the existing sidewalk with the old School Board building (new county offices/Free Clinic of Powhatan, county-owned ballfields, and the War Memorial Cultural Arts and Community Center). Projected cost: unknown.
* Route 60/ Route 13/Academy Road – In 2019, VDOT conducted a study of this intersection, recommending a restricted crossing u-turn (RCUT) at Routes 13 and 60 and additional turn lanes at Academy Road and Route 60 at a cost of $1.7 million. Given the study was only recently completed, an application at this time may be pre-mature, however feedback from the board and the public on how to best address this intersection could lead to a SMART Scale application in the future, if not this round. During the meeting, Mike Byerly, District 3, raised the possibility of a continuous green T being used at the intersection of Academy Road and Route 60 and a right turn lane heading east on Route 60 from Route 13. Staff is currently evaluating that option.
While the board didn’t officially narrow down the list at the Jan. 27 meeting, Byerly said that given the similar costs, he was more inclined toward a project like Route 60/ Route 13/Academy Road over Village sidewalks for the public safety benefits. Bill Cox, District 4, concurred with him.
Schardein’s SMART Scale presentation included a list of projects that are on the county’s radar but aren’t top picks for this year’s application. Byerly pointed to one of them – extending the westbound turn lane from Route 60 to Oakbridge Drive, where he said traffic backs up in the morning. He asked that it at least be presented to the public.
Nordvig pointed out that while the sidewalk projects seemed to be taking a back seat in the board’s discussion, he hopes the county will find a way to help connect the Free Clinic of Powhatan in its new location to the Village sidewalk network.
SMART Sale funding is a huge potential resource that Powhatan has taken advantage of in the past to great effect, Schardein said. The Route 711 widening project was submitted in fiscal year (FY) 2017, was approved and is now constructed. For FY 18, the county submitted a project for the Huguenot Springs and Huguenot Trail intersection realignment. That was approved and right now is in the right-of-way acquisition phase, he said.
Most recently, during the FY 2020 round, a Powhatan project made the cut that will involve constructing an additional turn lane on Anderson Highway (Route 60) at its intersection with Judes Ferry Road (Route 613) as well as an additional lane constructed along Judes Ferry Road from Route 60 to Batterson Road (Route 677).
Bates said in his VDOT presentation that the Huguenot Springs Road intersection realignment was slated for construction in spring 2022 and the latest project at Judes Ferry Road should be fully funded in FY 2025.
If you could not attend the SMART Scale public meeting but are interested in learning more, contact interim county administrator Bret Schardein at email@example.com or 804-598-3639.
At the beginning of the meeting, Bates gave a presentation that was a basic introduction to the new board members of VDOT’s role, especially as it pertains to Powhatan County.
He highlighted some of the other projects he wanted to bring to the board’s attention. In the pavement management area, Powhatan has two projects scheduled for 2020, he said. One resurfacing project will take place on Route 60 westbound from 0.18 miles west of Batterson Road to 0.05 miles west of Page Road, consisting of approximately 2.8 lane miles, and costing an estimated $392,806.35. The other resurfacing project will take place on both lanes of Route 711 from Three Bridge Road to Venita Road, consisting of approximately 13.06 lane miles, and estimated to cost $1,014,702.26. VDOT prioritizes resurfacing routes based off of traffic counts and surface/sub-surface ratings.
Bates could not offer a definitive timeframe for the repaving projects. The paving season stretches from March to October or November and contractors have that entire time to get all of the different contracts they have been awarded done. When the projects are scheduled to begin, they can generally give the public about two weeks of notice.
Powhatan has three upcoming bridge projects, Bates said. The Route 681 (Clementown Road) bridge over the Appomattox River was put out to bid but the bids came back too high. VDOT is going to go out for a bid again. Another project will take place at the bridge on Route 13 (Old Buckingham Road) over Sallee Creek. Construction begins in spring 2020. The third is the bridge on Route 684 (Cartersville Road) over Deep Creek. Plans are under review by VDOT and construction is scheduled to begin in fall 2020.
Bates also brought up the subject of the county’s Secondary Six-Year Plan, which is a document that outlines planned spending for transportation projects proposed for improvement or construction over the next six fiscal years. The plan is prioritized every year by the board of supervisors. Bates suggested using the funds Powhatan has accrued for these projects – about $180,000 – on work that will make a big impact. One example was using it to hard surface the shoulders on Route 711, possibly before the resurfacing takes place on the road. Bates added he would be back before the board in the near future to discuss the six-year plan.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.