VDOT to issue Route 460 safety report in March

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By Stephen Faleski

The Tidewater News

The Virginia Department of Transportation expects to issue in March its final report on a safety and operations study of U.S. Route 460 that began in May 2017.

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However, it may still be several years before residents of Windsor see any new construction projects to improve the corridor within the town’s borders, officials say.

VDOT representatives briefed residents of Windsor and Suffolk on the progress of the safety study during a forum on Tuesday evening, held in the cafeteria of Windsor High School.

According to Jerry Pauley, VDOT’s Hampton Roads District transportation planning engineer, the scope of VDOT’s research was limited to identifying the most common types of automobile crashes that occurred on the stretch of 460 that runs from the eastern border of Windsor’s incorporated limits to the highway’s interchange with U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk, and suggesting relatively low-cost ways to make travel safer.

Of the 11 specific sites along the 460 corridor identified in the study as needing improvements, only one is located in Isle of Wight County, approximately 1,000 feet east of Old Suffolk Road. Recommendations for this site include adding acceleration/deceleration lanes or a two-way left turn lane, increasing speed enforcement, trimming vegetation growing alongside the highway and clearing vegetation from drainage ditches. All suggestions, save for adding acceleration/deceleration lanes or turn lanes, could likely be accomplished for around $826 using VDOT’s maintenance funds. The acceleration lanes, however, would likely cost around $406,000 and have been identified as a long-term project.

Pauley added that the reason VDOT had planned to complete the safety study by March was so any larger or more involved projects could be submitted to Smart Scale, the department’s method for evaluating the cost versus benefit of proposed road improvements.

“VDOT changed the way we fund our projects a few years ago,” Pauley said. “It [Smart Scale] basically grades all of the projects and tries to come up with the best projects we can get for the dollar.”

Pauley explained that once projects are submitted to Smart Scale in March, they will be prioritized come December of this year. Then, after a series of meetings and further discussion of each project’s merits, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will have the final say in which receives funding.

“We fund on a six-year plan, so 2023-2024 is the fiscal year where we’re talking about the money becoming available,” he said.

Residents of Windsor and Suffolk who attended the meeting were not pleased to hear of the wait time for funding.

“[Route] 460 can’t take much more of no upkeep,” said Billy Gwaltney of Windsor. “If your roof structure starts leaking, you fix it.”

Nina Napolitano, VDOT’s senior communications specialist, added that not all of the recommended improvements from the Route 460 safety study would necessarily have to go through the Smart Scale process. The cost of some projects recommended may be covered by available funding. Funding programs that require an application by a locality, including Smart Scale and Hazard Elimination, follow different timelines for distributing funds once approval is granted.

“VDOT will advise the localities of the most appropriate way to achieve funding for certain projects as the study moves forward,” she said.

As for the stretch of 460 that runs through the town of Windsor, Pauley said that VDOT has studied this area a number of times and is already aware of where problem areas are located.

“Finding money to fix those problems is where we are now,” he said.

Napolitano added that finding and implementing a solution for the stretch of highway through Windsor would require cooperation with Isle of Wight County so that the solution is cost effective and acceptable to all stakeholders.

At present, VDOT has made no plans to improve the stretch of 460 through the town, nor have there been any recent studies of the highway heading west toward Zuni and Ivor.