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September 20, 2017

Citizens pan Route 29 improvement “concepts”

The designs I’m looking at will inhibit traffic to these properties, especially from the (southbound lanes) into Fauquier. We have a lot of customers from the Prince William side.
— Bill Chakalos, New Baltimore restaurant owner
Public Meeting
Topic: Four intersection concepts to improve traffic flow and safety along Route 29 between New Baltimore and the Prince William County line.

• When: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 19.

• Where: Auburn Middle School, 7270 Riley Road near Warrenton

• Turnout: More than 200.

• Agencies: Fauquier County government and Virginia Department of Transportation

• Next: County Transportation Planner Marie Pham will compile citizen comments for board of supervisors’ review and possible action.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The retired marketing executive knows Route 29 safety must be improved between New Baltimore and the Prince William County line.

But John Anderson of New Baltimore questioned whether Virginia Department of Transportation concepts to reconfigure intersections along a three-mile stretch of the four-lane highway would get the job done.

More than 200 citizens Thursday night attended a two-hour VDOT “outreach meeting” to learn more about the proposals and ask questions.

“I can understand” the intent to improve safety by preventing left turns onto Route 29 and using U-turns to redirect motorists, Mr. Anderson said. “But it’s confusing. When I have guests come, how do I explain how to get home?”

But, “if they dramatically improve safety, that’s an off-setting factor,” he said during the meeting at Auburn Middle School.

Under the plan, intersections at Broad Run Church, Telephone, Riley and Vint Hill roads would get redesigned to prevent left turns onto southbound Route 29.

A series of planned “RCUTS,” or U-turns, would allow left turns across the four-lane highway’s median.

The Vint Hill Road (Route 215) concept also would eliminate the traffic signal at that dangerous intersection.

The Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program already has approved almost $2.5 million to reconfigure the intersection at Route 29 and Broad Run Church/Beverleys Mill roads.

Besides eliminating left turns, the design “replaces the existing traditional traffic signal with two-phase signals at the intersection and at each” planned U-turn, according to VDOT. “This concept reduces red-light time and improves traffic flow” and “addresses the frequent rear-end and turning-related crashes at the busy intersection.”

While the state agency has scheduled reconstruction of that intersection for 2022, it could take place sooner, VDOT Communications Director Stacy Londrey said.

“This is a very, very loose schedule,” Ms. Londrey added.

The project would include closing two median crossings, both of which provide southbound traffic access to several businesses, including Spitony’s Pizza and Northside 29 Restaurant, on the east side of Route 29.

“The designs I’m looking at will inhibit traffic to these properties, especially from the (southbound lanes) into Fauquier,” said Bill Chakalos, who owns the pizza place and restaurant. “We have a lot of customers from the Prince William side.”

Under the plan, southbound drivers would be required to use the Broad Run/Beverleys Mill intersection to turn around and head north back to his restaurants, Mr. Chakalos said.

Because of that, he believes travelers will “pass by” and look for eateries with easier access.

Mr. Chakalos favors scrapping the plan, thus keeping the two median crossings open.

He suggested traffic flow and safety along Route 29 could be improved through adjusting the timing of stoplights and more vigorously enforcing the speed limit.

Route 29 between Warrenton and Vint Hill Road handles about 49,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT.

The Route 215 concept generated plenty of discussion among citizens.

“I think it could work, but they would have to modify it,” said Tim Hoffman, a retired federal government worker.

For one thing, coordinating signals would improve traffic flow along Route 29 and at Route 215, Mr. Hoffman said.

He also believes a merge lane along Route 29 north, beginning at Route 215, would improve safety.

“That’s probably the most dangerous area in the corridor,” Vint Hill developer Ed Moore said. “There are options we can implement to help alleviate that issue out there.

“We have to get trucks in and out of there. Taking away the left turn” for southbound Route 29 traffic “isn’t one of them. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

He favors regrading portion Route 29 just south of the Route 215 to remove “hills and dips” that severely limit visibility and account for numerous rear-end accidents.

“Shave and fill the humps,” Mr. Moore said.

Supervisor Holder Turmbo (Scott District) agreed.

“This is insane,” Mr. Trumbo said of the Route 215 concept. “They are coming out with incredibly complicated solutions to a simple problem . . . . For the love of all that is good, fill the dip!”

Tuesday’s big turnout produced the desired results, the supervisor said.

“I wanted a lot of people to come and let VDOT know their concerns. There are too many problems that people who use these roads all the time see with this.”

“I’ve heard some concerns about local residents getting in and out and access to 29” during rush hour, VDOT Resident Engineer Mark Nesbit said. “Most of them understand it. They’re familiar with the corridor. It’s like anything else that’s new to the corridor. There are questions.”

Citizens have until Sept. 29 to submit comments to county Transportation Planner Marie Pham.

Ms. Pham hopes to compile them by mid-October. As of Wednesday, it remained uncertain how the findings would be presented to the board of supervisors.

“It’s really to them to decide if they’re going to support any of this,” she said.

Ms. Pham can be reached at contact Ms. Pham at 540-422-8210 or Marie.Pham@FauquierCounty.gov.

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Member comments
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martinkus · September 21, 2017 at 11:28 am
What could go wrong? VDOT did an excellent job in Opal! LOL! I agree with Supervisor Trumbo's suggestion.
meckert · September 20, 2017 at 5:18 pm
Another VDOT bust waiting to happen. U-turns??? Just look what they did to the Opal intersection. After the 3rd iteration, they just blocked the road. They need to level the humps on route 29 north, leading up to the Vint Hill light...that way people can see the cars/trucks stopped ahead of them. Put in a longer right turn/left turn lane onto Vint Hill..
Russ f · September 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm
I live in the Vint Hill area and I use this intersection frequently, as I commute to 66 every day from Vint Hill via Vint Hill road to 29north and back home in reverse. Taking away the Vint Hill Light is just plain stupid. I will never get across 29 ( left turn from 29s onto Vint Hill) safely. There are new houses and neighborhoods going up everyday in the New Baltimore area. Over the past seven years, Vint Hill has become a major route connecting to manassas via nokesville. Instead of this insane plan, we need a light at Vint Hill road and broad run church road as that is a blind intersection and much more dangerous.
Thank you,
Russ
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