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January 30, 2018

Citing liability, town sticks with Broadview Ave. plan

File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
Traffic volume on Broadview Avenue in Warrenton has decreased but the number of accidents has risen, according to VDOT.
If a locality knows that it has a higher-than-normal risk for public safety and it has the means to try to mitigate that risk for liability reasons, it would be in the locality’s interest to do so.
— Town Attorney Whit Robinson
Broadview Ave. Project
• Concept includes: Nine median breaks between Route 211 and Roebling Street, 3 pedestrian crosswalks, 6-foot-wide shoulder bike lane on each side, replacement of parallel turn lanes in middle with alternating turn lanes and improvements to Route 211 intersection.

• Why: To improve safety and traffic flow.

• Where: About 1 mile between Route 211 and Roebling Street (at McDonald’s).

• Estimated cost: $8 million.

• Funding: State has allocated $7 million in federal funds; Town of Warrenton would pay the balance.

• More information: Click here
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Walking away from the $8-million plan to improve Broadview Avenue safety could put Warrenton at greater risk of getting sued over traffic accidents, according to town officials.

Based on the town attorney’s advice, Warrenton Planning Director Brandie Schaeffer last Thursday told Broadview Avenue merchants and property owners that failure to make the controversial improvements could leave the municipality more vulnerable to lawsuits.

Dropping the proposal also would require the town to repay the Virginia Department of Transportation an undetermined but potentially large amount for consultant services, Warrenton officials suggested.

Legal and reimbursement issues aside, Ms. Schaeffer explained during a two-hour meeting Jan. 25 that the town and VDOT — with the business community’s help — want to develop the best possible plan to improve traffic and pedestrian safety along Broadview.

Proposed changes include a series of medians, allowing controlled U-turns between Roebling and Frost avenues, and bike lanes at the commercial strip’s outside edges. The medians would prohibit left turns for vehicles exiting businesses.

But many Broadview Avenue merchants and property owners consider those changes unnecessary, arguing they would constrain customer access to businesses and thus hurt them.

They believe if U-turns and bike lanes get built as proposed, it would be difficult and dangerous for tractor-trailers to make deliveries to their businesses.

To address those concerns, a bike lane could be combined with existing sidewalks, creating a multi-purpose path. But that would increase the project’s cost, according to VDOT.

Broadview has six total lanes — two each north and south for travel and one in each direction for left turns — without a median for almost a mile from Route 211 to just shy of the McDonald’s restaurant at Roebling Street. The turn lanes — in the middle of the strip — allow unlimited access to more than 50 businesses from either direction.

For the most part, “sovereign immunity” protects government from being successfully sued, Town Manager Brannon Godfrey said in an interview.

But failure to make Broadview improvements could increase the risk of lawsuits resulting from traffic accidents along the busy road, Mr. Godfrey said.

Town Attorney Whit Robinson declined to discuss traffic-accident liability issues specific to the Broadview Avenue project.

“However, in general, if a locality knows that it has a higher-than-normal risk for public safety, and it has the means to try to mitigate that risk for liability reasons, it would be in the locality’s interest to do so,” said Mr. Robinson, who missed last Thursday’s meeting because of a family medical matter.

He has not researched whether case law exists to validate those concerns, the town attorney said.

Virginia has allocated $7 million in federal funds for the project, with the town paying the remaining $1 million.

While abandoning the project — as some critics suggest — would require the town to reimburse VDOT for design, engineering and survey expenses, neither Warrenton nor transportation officials know how much the state might seek to recoup.

“We haven’t computed that,” said Mr. Godfrey, referring reimbursement questions to VDOT.

“I don’t know what that is,” VDOT Project Manager Dave Cubbage said of the amount the town would have to repay if it scrapped the project. “And the number changes, between now and if some type of decision was made like that,” making the calculations even more complex.

Determining Warrenton’s reimbursement obligations also would be complicated because it would involve a detailed review of consultants’ agreements and the calculation of VODT staff time, Mr. Cubbage said.

“I really don’t want to speculate” how VDOT would determine costs to the town, he added. “It might be 100 percent of the time under this activity, but only partial under another activity.

“It’s such a labyrinth of numbers you get into when you start looking at this.”

Nor have government officials calculated the proposed median’s financial impact on businesses. A traffic engineer, whom business owners hired late last year, initially projected the medians would produce revenue declines of 25 to 75 percent for 49 establishments along the busy commercial strip. Only two of 51 businesses would suffer no customer loss, VETTRA Company President Vernon Torney’s preliminary calculations.

The medians would require U-turns to reach most commercial establishments on the opposite side of Broadview.

A 1989 VDOT document noted: “Upgrading of . . . Broadview Avenue/Shirley Avenue within the corporate limits of Warrenton was also considered but was eliminated due to impacts to the numerous businesses . . . . ”

The agency presented that information at a public hearing on the proposed Route 17 Spur, which later got built around the town’s northern edge.

Recent data show that something should be done to improve safety along Broadview Avenue, Mr. Cubbage said.

In 2010, VDOT recorded 21 Broadview Avenue accidents. That total increased to 29 in 2016, Mr. Cubbage noted.

Broadview Avenue traffic accidents produced 22 injuries in 2016.

“That’s more than quadruple” the five injuries reported in 2010, Mr. Cubbage said.

Drivers struck five pedestrians on Broadview Avenue from 2012 through 2016, according to VDOT.

Meanwhile, vehicle trips per day on Broadview Avenue dropped from an average 35,000 trips per day in 2010 to 32,000 trips per day in 2016. That represents about an 8.6 percent decline.

VDOT this spring and summer plans to complete engineering plans for the proposed improvements. The agency plans to conduct a public information meeting in May and a public hearing on the completed Broadview design in October.

VDOT and town staff members will continue to meet regularly with Broadview Avenue businesses and property owners.

> December: Business owners pan plan for Broadview Avenue
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BikerFriendlyGal · February 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm
More TF misinformation. Residents never lied to the counsel. The Town always had the Timber Fence connection on the Town Comprehensive plan, therefore there was no reason to ever speak to them about it. Residents certainly did speak before the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors, who were being encouraged by the Town Council to place the connection back into the County Comp Plan after is was removed in 2003....removed well before most Gold Cup and Silver Cup residents purchased their homes. In fact, "The road was removed from the Plan" became quite the selling point to those looking to purchase there.
There was never any money could there be without any design or acquired right of way? And VDOT never "blessed" anything because there was never anything to bless.

Capt C · February 2, 2018 at 7:02 am
BJ- I often beat on Elizabeth Scullin for her decisions while she was on the planning commission. But, this time I have to commend her. One thing that the planning commission did was, include the building of Timber Fence when gold cup was built, along with that was the only way it would be approved. There is a lot to this story but the highlight is this. Residents of gold cup lied to the counsel by stating they were never told that when they bought in there. Jimmy Rankin is one of few that commented that he was informed and it was included on the disclosure when he purchased. The biggie is that fitch was in the back pocket of the president of the HOA there. fitch is the reason why Timber fence was not installed. The money was there, and the town had VDOTs blessing. fitch killed it.
There is also another very simple option to keep traffic flowing but, I was told it would cost too much for the commitee to pick a consulant that would instruct the committee on how to pick a consultant to evaluate the solution I had. This is also when Chris Mothersead (sp) was an employee of the town and also contracting himself back to the town as a consultant.
BJ · January 31, 2018 at 7:33 pm
Like anything new, it will take getting used to, and we will still go to the businesses along Broadview as we always have, medians or not. Only other alternative is to create a bypass on Timber Fence Parkway, right through the Old Gold Cup area, which I know that the majority of people don't want, especially the people that live there.

Blaine Johnson
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