Residents want turn lane for Bridge Road

Published 9:36 pm Monday, December 30, 2019

With the Virginia Department of Transportation in the middle of a study to determine what improvements need to happen on Bridge Road, a deceleration lane at Bernhowe Manor Lane is not likely to happen in the near future.

Residents at two recent City Council meetings have spoken out in favor of such a lane as a means of making a safer right-hand turn from Bridge Road onto Bernhowe Manor Lane just past the new Sentara Belleharbour medical center, citing accidents and near-accidents that have happened.

At the Dec. 17 Planning Commission hearing, commissioner Johnnie Edwards cited his own experience trying to negotiate Bridge Road and make the right turn onto Bernhowe Manor Lane.

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“I took the 45 mph challenge, (and) it is rough on Route 17, and if you look to your right and look to your left, it is growing,” Edwards said. “Specifically, I listened to the situation going on on Bernhowe, and yes, it is tough to make that right turn, and then trying to go to the light and you trying to take that right, you have nothing but silver bullets behind you.”

Public Works Director L.J. Hansen said he has spoken with residents of the neighborhood about their concerns. VDOT is doing a study for the city to determine what Bridge Road needs to look like, especially with development in Suffolk, Smithfield and Isle of Wight County. He said VDOT is doing the study because of the road’s proximity to Interstate 664 and Virginia State Route 164.

“We’re trying to accommodate — what does that ultimate design look like,” Hansen said. “At this point, we do not have a plan to put a deceleration lane for Bernhowe Manor Lane, because we need to see what that ultimate design is.”

Hansen said if VDOT were to propose something that would alter the deceleration lane the city put in, the city would be wasting its efforts and money by putting one in.

“Hypothetically, if they came back and they said, ‘We think that, at this point, you should be planning to make Bridge Road a six-lane road instead of a four-lane road,’ and we had gone down an avenue to add a deceleration lane, there’s a lot of work that goes into that,” Hansen said. “There’s wetlands that are located there, there’s a lot of utility relocations. We feel it’s prudent at this point to wait and see what VDOT has to tell us, see what the results of this are, and then see what funding mechanisms are available, and I really hope we’ll have a better answer as we go through this process next year. At this point, it would be unwise to go down that avenue.”

VDOT has told the city it would be done with its Bridge Road study by spring 2020, which Hansen said is key for the city to apply for SmartScale funding for any Bridge Road work.

“Those (applications) are due in the spring, so we’re trying to wrap up the study process and roll right into the application,” Hansen said. “So, I’m hoping by the time we have this conversation next year, we’ll have a better understanding of what they came back with as a recommendation, what recommendations that we took from that study and were able to apply for funding sources.”