A good start on traffic

Published 9:56 pm Monday, March 20, 2017

A long-term solution to the frequent and irritating matter of traffic jams resulting from trains crossing Nansemond Parkway where it intersects with Wilroy Road is in the works, and it promises to solve the problem completely.

Whereas a stopgap measure briefly pursued by the city of Suffolk would have added “stacking lanes” for traffic needing to cross the tracks, the new solution will add a bridge crossing the tracks so trains — even those double-stacked with containers heading to and from the Port of Virginia — can cross without affecting automotive traffic.

The newly proposed project, announced during a City Council meeting on Wednesday, comes with a price tag of $25.7 million, but Suffolk will pay only $7.7 million of that bill as a result of negotiations with state officials, who have pledged the remainder from Virginia Department of Transportation funds.

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The city’s cost is significantly higher than the $2.7 million Suffolk would have spent on the stopgap measure, but the benefits of the bridge, along with the fact that it’s a permanent solution, make the higher price tag eminently worth the hit taxpayers will take.

The bridge solution will also take longer to come to fruition — city officials estimate that construction will begin in 2020 and that it could be complete in 2022 — but a new set of signals at the crossing that direct traffic to turn away from the train crossing when a train is passing has proved helpful.

Stronger police enforcement of the new traffic pattern would also send a signal to drivers that holding up long lines of traffic in order to avoid a temporary detour will not be tolerated.

It has long been obvious to Suffolk officials that the continued growth of the ports in Hampton Roads, along with the city’s growing warehousing and distribution industry sector, could wreak havoc on traffic here. What Suffolk has lacked for some time, however, is solid help from the state in solving those traffic problems.

The commonwealth’s promise of significant help with this crossing could indicate a change of heart for transportation planners and other officials at the state level.

Now, if only we could get them to take a look at the King’s Highway Bridge. Or the Godwin Bridge. Or the railroad crossing on North Main Street. Or the Kimberly Bridge….

Lets just call this a good start.