The long-awaited widening of a two-lane stretch of Sliding Hill Road in Hanover County will commence soon, but don’t expect the traffic problems there to be resolved until the end of next year.
With construction scheduled to begin Sept. 9, motorists traveling on Sliding Hill Road between Atlee Station Road and New Ashcake Road — which passes the Hanover Air Park off Interstate 95 — should expect intermittent delays through at least the next 16 months.
“During construction, which is expected to last until December 2020, the Department of Public Works urges drivers who use this section of Sliding Hill Road to consider alternate routes,” a county news release said.
County officials say the corridor is too narrow to adequately handle the approximately 16,000 cars the Virginia Department of Transportation says travel through the area every day, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours.
Analysis by a traffic consultant the county hired determined that there will be about 100 to 200 more cars traveling along Sliding Hill Road during the rush-hour periods by 2021, but traffic during those times is already a bog for commuters.
“Traffic has grown to the point that it’s slightly over capacity during peak hours,” said Hanover Public Works Director Mike Flagg.
Though many of the residents who live in the myriad residential developments south and east of the Air Park will theoretically be able to get home or to work faster once the job is complete, some neighbors worry it won’t improve traffic that much and that the more than yearlong project will be an inconvenience.
“I think the feeling is neutral at best,” said Jamie Ledwith, the chairman of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce’s Air Park Division and a county resident who has lived near the corridor for about 20 years. “I think a lot of people are seeing a lot of inconvenience for something they don’t see a benefit in.”
Ledwith said other road projects in the area in recent years helped businesses in the Air Park to some degree, but that the projects haven’t been able to keep up with the residential development growth farther down the road.
“There’s a lot more traffic than a few years ago when this probably could have taken place. Sometimes these projects happen at an inopportune time,” he said. “Yes, it needs to be done, but why did we wait until now?”
Flagg, the public works director, said the county has been planning to widen Sliding Hill Road for several years. He said the county in recent years has completed a few smaller road projects along the corridor to alleviate congestion in various phases, based on the availability of funding.
“This is a much larger project, so it took a lot of accumulated funds,” Flagg said.
The $11.4 million road project is mostly being funded by the state, which will pay $9.1 million. The county is paying $1.3 million. The remaining amount for the estimated total will be covered by federal funding and local development proffers.
In addition to widening the road, new turn lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks will be built, Flagg said.
David Hajek, co-owner of the Goddard School on Sliding Hill Road, said he and his preschool’s families are also concerned about traffic disruptions and potential safety risks.
He said several people have been asking the county to consider installing additional traffic lights at intersections along the corridor, such as at Totopotomoy Trail and Atlee Commerce Boulevard, to better manage traffic in a safe way.
Hajek said county and state officials have told them that it isn’t necessary and could potentially slow traffic even more. Flagg said turning right and making a U-turn at the next stoplight would be safer and relatively quick.
Hajek said he and others are skeptical of how much the road widening project will help to alleviate congestion.
“I’m sure the traffic will flow better, but it remains to be seen how it’ll be done,” he said. “It’ll be a mess while under construction. We won’t know until it’s all over.”