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April 26, 2018

Supervisors to VDOT: New Route 29 solution needed

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Everyone agrees the hilly, northbound approach to Vint Hill Road presents significant danger, but the county supervisors and VDOT disagree on the solution.
The stagnation that has happened and the gridlock between us and VDOT on this issue is creating misery for a large portion of the people I represent.
— Center District Supervisor Chris Granger
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Fauquier’s supervisors have given state transportation officials a year to develop alternatives to a controversial plan to improve three intersections along Route 29 between New Baltimore and the Prince William County line.

The proposal aims to improve traffic safety and flow on a three-mile stretch of the busy, four-lane divided highway, which handles about 40,000 vehicles a day.

But critics have complained it could have the opposite effect.

The Fauquier board two weeks ago unanimously agreed to a May 1, 2019, deadline for the Virginia Department of Transportation and county staff to “reach a design solution” to Route 29 traffic problems.

“We’re going to work with the county to see what we can up with,” VDOT Engineer Mark Nesbit said Thursday. “If the county has some concepts it wants us to review, we’ll certainly do that.”

Despite frustration with VDOT’s work on the Route 29 project, Supervisor Holder Trumbo (Scott District) believes the agency should take the design lead.

“It’s VDOT’s job to bring solutions,” Mr. Trumbo said during an April 12 work session on the project. “They’re the engineers. We simply need to let them know what the problems are.

“We’ve had multiple meetings since last September, where residents and businesses have expressed concern about what their solutions would do to them.”

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

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

The plan for Vint Hill Road (Route 215) 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.”

But New Baltimore merchants and residents argue that VDOT’s recommendations favor commuter and other through traffic at the expense of local drivers and businesses.

They also believe the proposed improvements — including U-turns — would make Route 29 more dangerous, especially for inexperienced and elderly drivers.

Many voiced those and other objections April 9 during a two-hour meeting that Del. Elizabeth R. Guzman (D-31st/Woodbridge) hosted on the project at Old Bust Head Brewing Co. at Vint Hill.

Mr. Nesbit and VDOT Engineer John Lynch discussed the plan and answered audience questions. Much of the discussion focused on proposed improvements to the Vint Hill Road intersection.

Vint Hill business owners worry that the proposed Route 215 intersection improvements would inconvenience their customers and discourage entrepreneurs from investing in the former Army base.

Mr. Trumbo believes sight-distance problems along northbound Route 29 at Vint Hill Road lend themselves to an easy fix.

“There’s a dip there, before the (traffic) light,” the Scott District supervisor said in an interview the day after the meeting. “Do it now. It’s only going to get more expensive later. I think if VDOT did that, you’d hear a collective cry from the community: ‘Thank goodness. They’ve going to do what we told them to’.”

To help make the corridor safer, Mr. Trumbo also believes the speed limit between Riley Road and Mayhugh’s Store should be reduced from 55 mph to 45 mph.

Like the Scott District supervisor, Vint Hill businessman Ike Broaddus believes VDOT could greatly improve safety along Route 29 by reducing the speed limit.

“The quick and easy thing to do is to reduce the speed for all of New Baltimore and enforce it,” said Mr. Broaddus, who with his wife Julie owns Old Bust Head Brewery and about 117,200 square feet of additional commercial building space at Vint Hill.

He backs Mr. Trumbo’s suggestion for improving Route 29’s sight distance just south of the Route 215 intersection.

To make that intersection more efficient and safer, Mr. Broaddus also believes:

• A turn lane should be installed to feed Vint Hill Road traffic onto Route 29 north.

• The existing Route 29 southbound turn lane at the Vint Hill Road intersection should be extended to handle more vehicles.

His constituents — many of whom commute — want prompt solutions to Route 29 congestion solutions, Supervisor Chris Granger (Center) explained during the April 12 work session.

“The stagnation that has happened and the gridlock between us and VDOT on this issue is creating misery for a large portion of the people I represent,” Mr. Granger said.

Mr. Nesbit understands the objections to the proposed improvement plant.

But “all are nationally recognized” safety improvements, he said. “They’ve been constructed in other areas. They have them in North Carolina and Maryland.

“The large majority say they do improve traffic safety; they do improve traffic flow.”

Data also indicate they work, Mr. Nesbit added.

“We try to move volumes of traffic as safely as possible. Efficiency and safety go hand-in-hand.”
Member comments
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To comment, please log in or register. · May 2, 2018 at 6:07 pm
I'm always amazed at Vdot. They never seem to have the ability to anticipate the future. The solution they came up with it Route 29 and opal road is complete disaster. Can we not get some common sense Illusions to traffic?
meckert · April 28, 2018 at 12:34 pm
Here is a simple plan...How about cutting down the humps on Rt 29 so people that are distracted can see whats ahead of them and can stop before plowing into the vehicle in from of them. Then...make the turning lanes longer so backups don't develop on RT 29.
rally39 · April 26, 2018 at 3:52 pm
I attended VDOTs presentation at Auburn Middle is a well thought out and designed plan...I am totally in favor of it....Michigan turns and Jersey jug handles are very effective and efficient at facilitating traffic flow.....besides...if you really want to start improving the safety of our roadways adopt Germany's drivers licensing programs...that country does not just teach it's citizens how to operate a motor vehicle....they also teach them HOW TO DRIVE
cmecamp · April 26, 2018 at 2:33 pm
I think the left turn idea would only cause more accidents , and agree the speed limit probably from route 15 south passed Warrenton should probably be lowered to 45mph. A possible far left lane in both direction for left turn only
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