Growing pains in Suffolk

Published 9:43 pm Friday, February 19, 2016

A growing city — much like a growing child — will experience its share of growing pains. Think of Suffolk’s capital improvements plan as one of the pains necessarily associated with its growth.

Members of City Council on Wednesday voted to approve a capital plan worth $68 million in the coming fiscal year. Sixty-eight million dollars represents a lot of financial pain for taxpayers, but some things cannot be avoided in a city recently ranked the 16th fastest-growing locality in Virginia.

Among the unavoidable considerations for a growing city is the fact that schools must be built to keep up with the load of students the municipality must educate. In Suffolk, the continuing growth of North Suffolk neighborhoods has stressed the elementary and middle schools serving them beyond their limit.

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The new capital improvements plan moves another step forward on a proposal to build a new middle school and a new elementary school to alleviate overcrowding at John Yeates Middle School and to replace the decrepit Florence Bowser Elementary School and reduce crowded conditions at that school and Driver Elementary School.

There’s no getting around the need for new schools, and City Council has been steadfast in its support for building them. The new capital plan includes a total of $26.7 million to cover much of the cost that will be involved.

Another unavoidable consideration in a growing city is the need for good traffic management. Especially in a city with as many at-grade railroad crossings as Suffolk has, it’s vital that planners be proactive in designing intersections and turn lanes that serve to keep traffic moving to the greatest extent possible.

Suffolk’s capital improvements plan includes new turn lanes for the troublesome, railroad-complicated intersection of Wilroy Road and Nansemond Parkway. The solution is not a perfect one, but it will go far toward alleviating longstanding traffic problems there.

Similarly, intersections at Nansemond Parkway and Bennetts Pasture Road, Kings Highway and Godwin Boulevard and the off-ramp from Route 58 at Godwin Boulevard will benefit from money set aside in the plan. Each of those intersections presents a well-known set of traffic and safety problems that have been desperate for corrective measures.

Finally, a $100,000 commitment to study the advisability of building a road that would connect Nansemond Parkway and Shoulders Hill Road, while bypassing the railway that crosses both of those highways, is a great example of local government looking for a way to solve an intractable problem with out-of-the-box thinking.

Growing pains are by definition painful and signs of growth. As with so many things in life, one can focus on the negative of the pain or one can focus on the positive of growth. It’s all in the perspective.