POWHATAN – Work has already begun to update a 20-year-old study of Route 60 across the length of six counties from Powhatan to Amherst.
After several years of unsuccessful bills patroned by Sen. Mark Peake, R-22, to update a 1999 study, the Virginia Department of Transportation recently authorized the project to take another look at the 103-mile corridor, said Darrel Johnson, rural planning program manager.
The primary goal of this study is to provide localities with cost effective innovative intersection design improvements that are tailored for submission as SMART Scale applications. In addition to recommended intersection improvements, this study will also perform a safety analysis for three high crash density segments as well as a high level multi-lane analysis to determine how many lanes are necessary to maintain current level of service now and in the future.
“The primary purpose is to identify safety and capacity issues along the corridor, making it so it would be safer for when economic development comes and being able to control access management so you are not having a stoplight at every entrance along the corridor. We want the corridor to be able to move smoothly,” Johnson.
A consultant has already started the project and is conducting traffic counts and putting together current conditions, he said.
Those findings will be presented in two citizen information meetings being held this month. In Powhatan, a meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24 at Powhatan Middle School, 4135 Old Buckingham Road.
Another meeting will also be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17 at Buckingham County Administration Complex Auditorium, 13380 James Anderson Highway, Buckingham, VA 23921.
The meeting content will be the same for both, so people can attend whichever is most convenient for them. The purpose of the meetings is to give citizens an opportunity to learn more about the study, meet with VDOT representatives and provide input. These meetings will be held in open-house format and will include a formal presentation at the start.
Citizens may provide oral and written comments at the meeting or submit them by Aug. 3 to Darrel Johnson, VDOT Project Manager, 1401 East Broad St., Richmond VA 23219 or via email to Darrel.Johnson@VDOT.Virginia.gov. Reference “Route 60 Corridor Study” in the subject line of any e-mail correspondence.
Citizens are highly encouraged to give their input at these public meetings or reaching out to VDOT and then by attending another set of meetings that will be scheduled to present possible solutions to traffic issues based on the study, said Bret Schardein, assistant county administrator.
“It is important for people to see what is being studied. But also, a lot of these people drive and use these intersections every day. So while we have smart people looking at solutions, there is no substitution for sitting at a stoplight every single morning and seeing how it actually functions and where the issues are. So I think people could also propose their own solutions,” he said.
While this is a regional study that will be looking at a 103-mile corridor, part of the parameters are to specifically study 10 intersections – seven of which are located in Powhatan County, Schardein said. In Powhatan County, the study will look at Route 60’s intersections with Red Lane, South Creek One, Batterson Road (East). New Dorset Road, Batterson Road (West), Dorset Road, and Maidens Road. The study will also look at Route 15 (Sprouse’s Corner) and Route 24 (Mt Rush Hwy) in Buckingham County and 29 Interchange in Amherst County.
According to a project summary from Michael Baker International, the consultant for the project, it “includes the analysis of 10 intersections with recommendations, evaluating the operations of two-lane segments west of US 522, analyzing possible passing lane sections, and reviewing the safety of a few segments along US 60. For the two-lane segments between US 522 and the Town of Amherst, we will first perform a multilane analysis.”
Both Schardein and Johnson confirmed that the study will also take into account the proposed truck traffic related to Green Ridge Recycling and Disposal Facility in Cumberland County, most of which is expected to come through Powhatan on its way to and from other locations.
Route 60 is the major corridor for people in Powhatan to get in and out of the county, whether that is commuting to work or visiting some of the other amenities to the east, Schardein said. But added to that are the localities to the west experiencing growth who use Route 60 to travel east to the Richmond region and beyond.
VDOT identified some of the intersections that needed to be studied, but it also took some suggestions from the participating localities, so staff suggested some of them, he said.
While he didn’t speak to why the other localities had fewer intersections on the list, he said the reason Powhatan has more is because of the predominant traffic going to and from the Richmond region.
“If you go from generally more rural west to Powhatan, each county progressively gets a little more dense and adds their own traffic. So by the time you get here, you’ve got the traffic from not just us but numerous other localities. And because of our proximity to the Richmond region, we’ve had more growth than some of those other localities and are facing some more pressure,” he said. “If you look at the traffic volumes and the issues created by them, it makes sense why Powhatan has more.”
Schardein said he didn’t hear objections from other localities, likely because finding solutions to traffic problems in Powhatan generally would be helpful to them as their people need to get in and out of the region.
“For a lot of them that means coming through Powhatan. So it helps their residents and probably helps them be more attractive to industry as well if people can get in and out easily,” he said.
For more information on this project, visit the project website at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/richmond/route-60-corridor.asp.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.