VDOT begins study on Route 58

Published 10:03 pm Monday, March 12, 2018

The Virginia Department of Transportation on Monday held a meeting at Pioneer Elementary School to educate and gather feedback from citizens regarding a 71-mile stretch of U.S. Route 58 before it begins its U.S. 58 Arterial Preservation Plan study.

The study aims to preserve and enhance the vehicle capacity and safety of the state’s Arterial Preservation Network while accommodating economic development and avoiding wide-scale road widenings. The goals of the study focus on safety and making Route 58 more efficient.

“We have not developed any recommendations as of yet,” said VDOT consultant Brad Shelton. “We have just started.”

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Route 58 was built for the purpose of high-speed and long-distance travel, but high traffic on the corridor has brought businesses to Route 58. The addition of businesses has added multiple access points and traffic signals, and these elements have created high density of traffic and a high crash rate.

This study will help us planning for future development,” Shelton said. “It’s more cost effective to implement improvements today than do improvements after the development takes place.”

Looking at data from 2016, VDOT has found high traffic areas in Emporia, Courtland and Suffolk both in the morning and evening. Data from 2014 to 2017 shows these same three areas also have the highest crash history.

“These are things we look at moving forward. There is a project under way in Suffolk. When we run air models, we are assuming that project is complete,” Shelton said.

Access management will be VDOT’s key to remedying the issues, and during its research, the agency will look to reduce conflict points. Conflict points are where two directions of travel meet and the potential for a crash is highest.

“Our goal is to reduce conflict points,” Shelton said. “It increases safety and reduces congestion. There is a lot of research out there to back up the point. When you separate conflict points, it gives the driver more time to get in an appropriate lane and react to the traffic.”

VDOT will have two additional meetings, in Southampton County on Tuesday and Greensville County on Thursday, to gather additional public comment.

“We are going to take comments, analyze them and combine them with our current data. We are going to see if it correlates,” Shelton said. “We will then come to the public with our recommendations and have another round of meetings. We need to get feedback before it is finalized.”

The next round of meetings with the recommendations are tentatively scheduled for late June or early July.

The current widening project in Suffolk begins at the west end of the bypass and runs past Manning Bridge Road.

“The construction project is in the right-of-way acquisition phase. We are adding an additional lane eastbound and westbound. It’s just over three miles,” said Assistant Director of Public Works Sherry Earley. “We’re working on right-of-way acquisition, and it will take six to eight months. The next phase is utility relocation, and that will be an 18-month process, and we will have around a two-year construction period.”