Windsor hears from Rte. 460 partners

Published 9:55 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

For two hours on Tuesday, Windsor residents and council members grilled Virginia Department of Transportation representatives on the latest proposed version of an update to Route 460.

Mayor Carita Richardson had invited VDOT Environmental Project Manager Angel Deem to attend the town council meeting. With her were environmental manager Caleb Parks and Michael Tugman, consultant project manager for the project from HDR Inc.

On an enlarged map Tuesday, Tugman showed how the 17-mile new road could go from Suffolk, bypass Windsor on the north, crossing over Route 258 without a transfer point, and connect to the existing 460 at Zuni.

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One of the concerns about the proposal is safety. With signalization, trucks and other vehicles from the west could get onto the bypass. But some folks Tuesday weren’t satisfied with the plan.

“How is it safer than what we have now?” asked Brenda Peters of Five Forks Road. “For the people in Windsor, that design does not improve our safety on that road. You’ve added safety issues by allowing trucks to stop and cross [from the existing to the new path], because you’re trying to reduce wetlands impact in order to get a permit. That’s what it looks like to me. You’ve sacrificed that need.”

Tugman assured them that safety is factored into the design.

“This study isn’t in a position to prohibit trucks,” said Deem, adding, “A lot of advanced engineering has gone into the project, and by no means is the engineering work complete.”

Isle of Wight Supervisor Dick Grice of the Smithfield District said, “It would be to our advantage to ask the intersection be larger in scope.”

Supervisor Rex Alphin of the Carrsville District said he recalled that the original plan had included a cloverleaf, which has since been taken away.

Deem said that there was a possibility of such interchanges, but no decision has been made.

Town Manager Michael Stallings asked if there could be any improvements for the old 460.

Tugman said there are some minor improvements planned, but offered no details.

Richardson voiced environmental concerns. “The northern corridor is a unique ecosystem — very different from the southern. We have trees older than our country that would come down. What about endangered species?”

Parks said surveys were conducted for barking tree frogs and salamanders, but they had not been found. If they are, Deem said, “We’ll avoid those trees.

The mayor noted that transparency is another matter.

“People are paying attention,” she said. “I think this is going to cause a dangerous situation. Once you get to Zuni, there’s [the possibility of] flooding. Please, please think about that.”

Councilman Tony Ambrose said, “I could almost swallow this if [the bypass] went from A to B. I feel I have been lied to — no, not lied to — led. Now you’re changing the rules of the game. I just can’t get behind that myself.”

“This is a process,” Grice replied. “The deadline’s extended. We need to look at each of the targets. We have to stay within process.”

Both Billy Gwaltney of Deer Path Road and Scott were not optimistic about the proposal.

“We don’t mean to be hard, but we don’t understand this,” said Richardson. “I hope you’re not taking this personally. But somebody needs to answer these questions. I’m disappointed in the communication. There was no collaboration. The locals know what the problems are a lot better than someone from Richmond.”

Alphin acknowledged Deem, Parks and Tugman don’t make the decision on the project, but said, “I would like to see the project halted.”

Last year, the supervisors then approved a resolution supporting the preferred alternative as a bargaining chip to have some say in the plan.

On Tuesday, he suggested that board of supervisors now might partner with Council on how to deal with it.

Councilman N. Macon Edwards III said, “I think we as a town council need to get on the same page to decide whether we want this bypass. We need to get together with the county.”