Planned chaos on North Main Street

Published 9:46 pm Monday, February 2, 2015

To the editor:

While debate on the best use of the old Obici site continues, at least there seems to be consensus that traffic congestion on North Main Street is a real problem.

North Main Street currently fails to meet state standards. By VDOT standards, lanes are too narrow, road geometry is poor at critical intersections and turning lanes are too short for the level of traffic.

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A quick study of the City’s own 2035 Comprehensive Plan finds that North Main Street is currently listed with a failing grade of E, with traffic “volume greater than the available capacity.” This is actually a gross misrepresentation as this description meets the VDOT classification for Grade F.

Yet there are no planned major improvements for North Main Street.

In summary, Main Street is a failing grade F road now, with no opportunity for significant improvement, yet the city forecasts and plans additional traffic.

The proposed development on the old Obici site not only will add traffic to a failed road system but also will incorporate road design changes that will create more delays and very dangerous intersections.

The proposed addition of a light at Northgate Lane will place signals closer than the VDOT design minimums, which itself can create traffic flow problems. The construction of the proposed central median will reduce lanes widths still further and require Longwood Avenue residents to make U-turns at both the Northgate Lane and Murphys Mill Road traffic lights to enter and exit their street. This will require additional signaling delays to North Main Street through-traffic to allow safe U-turns.

For residents of Edgewood Avenue, the situation will be even worse. They will not have the luxury of a light to exit their street. To turn left, they will face five lanes of Main Street traffic as well as competing traffic from the new development opposite. A safe left turn will be impossible in rush hour traffic. They will also lack the opportunity to turn right and make a U-turn at the next light. This would be the light at Applebee’s, which is already a bottleneck. Safe U-turns here are not possible unless the junction is reconfigured to make room for a U-turn and signaling sequences are changed, slowing through traffic still further.

Given these facts, it is hard to understand how the addition of apartments and commercial properties on the old Obici site is a planned action. Furthermore, the local schools lack the capacity to take the extra students from the rental properties. We will also have an oversupply of rental housing and commercial properties that will work against the dollars already spent to re-energize the old downtown.

The driving force for developing the old Obici site is so that the city can offload the property and get it off its books. Developments of the proposed nature have so many downsides that the associated costs will far outweigh the stated benefit of $280,000 in tax revenue.

Who do you think will pay for fixing all the problems?

You know who!

Geoff Payne