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August 31, 2018

Route 29 advisory panel will focus on safety, access

Route 29 Study
Click here for details and updates about the Route 29 corridor between Warrenton and Prince William County.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fixing one of Fauquier’s most dangerous intersections could be as simple as bulldozing a hilly portion of the northbound lanes of Route 29 near New Baltimore.

That idea came up Thursday during a meeting of a new citizen advisory group charged with making recommendations to improve safety and traffic flow along the busy four-lane highway between Warrenton and Prince William County.

Many believe removing hills from Route 29 just south of Vint Hill Road — to improve visibility for northbound motorists — significantly would increase safety at that intersection.

Making that improvement could take about three months and create traffic disruptions, Virginia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Garrett Moore told the nine-member panel. But, the project would need to produce a clear “return on investment” to justify its cost, Mr. Moore said.

No group members objected to the suggestion. The new group will work with VDOT to reach a consensus on potential Route 29 improvements after Fauquier citizens and government officials opposed recent proposals to make dramatic changes to intersections along the corridor.

Essentially, the advisory group’s appointment represents a fresh start.

Road safety remains VDOT’s top priority in identifying potential Route 29 improvements, Mr. Moore stressed.

The panel’s two-hour meeting took place in the Warren Green Building in Warrenton.

During the Aug. 30 meeting, the panel also discussed:

• Making the Route 29 speed limit 45 mph through New Baltimore.

Ike Broaddus, who co-owns Old Bust Head Brewing Co. at Vint Hill, hoped that change could be made quickly and by “consensus.”

Mr. Broaddus, a panel member who represents Vint Hill businesses, argued that speed reduction — from 55 mph — can improve the movement of “through” traffic.

But Mr. Moore said that under some circumstances reducing speed limits can make roads more dangerous. Divided, four-lane road with high speed limits generally have the fewest accidents per mile traveled, he said.

Most accidents take place at points of traffic “friction,” such as intersection and highway ramps, he said.

“I’m not saying 45 (mph) is out,” Mr. Moore told the group. “Let’s do the work and see where it gets us.”

Citizens and government officials for decades have studied Route 29 and its challenges. In Fauquier, recommendations from the community have included measures to manage and slow Route 29 traffic, such as the installation of roundabouts, which never gained traction.

• Traffic growth on Route 29, which carries more than 40,000 vehicles per day.

Barring “catastrophe,” Route 29 traffic only will increase, Mr. Moore told the panel.

Micron Technology Inc. this week announced plans to spend $3-billion to expand its Manassas chip factory. The project could create 1,100 new jobs, according to the company.

That will generate more Route 29 traffic, Mr. Moore said.

Amazon has identified Northern Virginia as possible location for its planned $5-billion “HQ2” project, which could create 50,000 jobs.

That also would have traffic implications for Route 29, the VDOT chief engineer added.

The panel’s next meeting will take place Sept. 27.

Its work must result in recommendations that show a return on the state’s investment and that he can sell to transportation decision-makers, Mr. Moore stressed.

He wants to complete the group’s work by December.

Besides Mr. Broaddus, advisory group includes:

• Steve Combs, deputy commissioner, Virginia Department of Veterans Services. The department next year expects to open the 128-bed Puller Veteran Care Center.

• Natalie Erdossy, who represents Brookside subdivision homeowners’ association.

• Pete Eltringham, a member of the county’s transportation committee; Mr. Eltringham represents New Baltimore-area residents along Route 29.

• Marc Geffroy, of Seneca Properties LLC, who represents Route 29 businesses. Seneca Properties owns land on Route 29 in New Baltimore.

• Tim Hoffman, who represents the Vint Hill homeowners’ association.

• Haven Melton, Federal Aviation Administration air traffic manager, Potomac TRACON facility at Vint Hill. The center employs about 800 people.

• Craig Oakley, who represents the New Baltimore Volunteer Fire Department.

• C. Hunter Ritchie Elementary School Principal Cristy Thorpe, who also represents the county school system.
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