City Council talks roads

Published 10:53 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

City leaders discussed a plan Wednesday to fund $1.17 million worth of transportation improvements in the coming fiscal year with money from the general fund.

About $1 million would go toward intersection construction in the city, while $170,000 would be used for channel dredging. City leaders are waiting on responses from federal grants for key projects, one in particular being the widening of U.S. Route 58.

The capital improvements plan is a preliminary 10-year overview of the projects city leaders anticipate needing during that time period. Each year, the plan is updated and the first year of the plan is incorporated into the budget process.

Public Works director Eric Nielsen presented the city’s transportation priorities to City Council during its meeting Wednesday. The planning commission is scheduled to review the plan next month, and Council will adopt a version of the plan early next year.

The many projects on the table include widenings of Holland Road, Bridge Road and Nansemond Parkway, the replacement of the Kings Highway Bridge, and more.

Holland Road operated in 2008 at level of service “B,” on a six-letter scale from A through F, according to a study done by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission in June 2008. However, several developments along the corridor have since been approved by City Council, including the massive 930-acre CenterPoint Properties intermodal park. If nothing is done or if only spot improvements are made, that segment of road will be at level “F” in 2017, according to the study. A widening to six lanes will bring it up to a “B.”

A similar scenario is true for Bridge Road. In 2008, the road had an “A” rating during the morning rush hour and a “B” rating during the afternoon rush hour. However, if no or only minor improvements are made by 2018, the road will be at level “D” during the afternoon rush hour, according to a study by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization. A widening to six lanes would pull the road up to level A, B or C, depending on the rush hour and which other improvements are made.

“The costs of doing nothing could be detrimental to the economic vitality of the area surrounding this corridor and the overall qualify of life for many Suffolk, Isle of Wight and Chesapeake residents,” the study said.

The city is due to find out next year whether it will be accepted for a federal stimulus grant to help pay for the Holland Road widening. The city submitted its application this summer for a Grant for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER Grant.

City Councilman Charles Parr put forth an idea for funding the projects by using the first year of tax dollars from new developments for transportation. Budget Officer Anne Seward agreed it sounded like a good idea.

“They’re not dollars we’ve built into the budget, they’re not dollars we have a purpose for, I truly see it as a win-win.”

The entire capital improvements plan will be discussed by the Planning Commission in an upcoming meeting.