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July 9, 2019

Route 29 detours smooth during morning commute

I thought yesterday was going to be a lot worse that it was. It worked out well.
— Sheriff’s Cpl. Rob Moline
“Cut the Hills” Project
• Purpose: To remove two hills along northbound Route 29 to enhance visibility approaching the Vint Hill Road intersection near New Baltimore.

• Construction schedule: July 8 to Aug. 2, northbound lanes of Route 29 will be shut from just north of the entrance to Battlefield Baptist Church to just south of the Vint Hill Road intersection, a distance of about a half mile.

• Detour plan: During the closure, northbound traffic will be directed to Route 17 from Warrenton to Interstate 66 at Marshall, then to I-66 east to Gainesville. The plan bars trucks with more than three axles from using four secondary roads near the construction area. The closure doesn’t affect southbound traffic and allows drivers to turn onto and from Route 215 during the closure. Access to private entrances, including the Battlefield Baptist Church, will be maintained during the closure. 

• Cost: $3.5 million

• Contractor: Culpeper office of Chemung Contracting Corp.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Overall, the sheriff’s deputy praised a detour plan that shuts a portion of northbound Route 29 near New Baltimore for the next three weeks to make safety improvements to the busy highway.

The plan took effect at noon Monday, July 8. In places carrying up to 50,000 vehicles, the four-lane highway will fully reopen Aug. 2.

Monday night’s commute produced a huge backup along Broad Run Church Road. It extended from Vint Hill Road back to Riley Road.

Otherwise, “I thought yesterday was going to be a lot worse that it was,” Sgt. Rob Moline said during a Tuesday morning rush-hour patrol of New Baltimore area roads affected by the closure. “It worked out well.”

Tuesday morning’s rush — the first for northbound traffic — went well.

The $3.5-million “Cut the Hills” project will remove two humps from northbound Route 29 just south of Vint Hill Road.

Removing the hills will enhance sight distance and improve road safety near one on the region’s most dangerous intersections, according to Virginia Department of Transportation officials.

From 2013 to 2017, VDOT reported 113 crashes in that portion of Route 29’s northbound lanes.

The detour plan bans vehicles with more than three axles from Old Tavern Road, Blantyre Road, Beverley’s Mill Road, Broad Run Church Road and Rogues Road between Dumfries and Vint Hill roads.

It also directs northbound traffic to Route 17 north from Warrenton to Interstate 66 at Marshall and to then I-66 east to Gainesville.

The closure doesn’t affect southbound traffic, allowing drivers to turn onto and from Route 215 during the closure. Access to private entrances, including the Battlefield Baptist Church, will remain open. 

From about 5:40 until about 8:45 a.m. Tuesday drivers experienced minimal or no delays at intersections throughout the detour areas.

With a deputy directing traffic, it took about four minutes to get through the Broad Run and Vint Hill roads intersection at 7 a.m. An hour later, it took about two minutes.

“I’m pretty impressed by the size of this closure and the impact it has,” Sgt. Moline said. “We’re looking at a four-minute delay . . . . I’ll take it. I would call that a success.”

He cited several reasons for delays at Broad Run and Vint Hill roads, chief among them an increase in “nonlocal” traffic. But such congestion could be reduced as those drivers use the Route 17 detour, the sergeant said.

He sounded equally pleased with traffic flow Tuesday along Route 17 north, Old Tavern Road and Route 55, which handle regional detour traffic.

“If things are going to happen, it’s going to be the first day,” Sgt. Moline said.

He urged motorists to continue to exercise “patience” and good judgment during the closure.

“I’m really impressed by the outreach of VDOT” and other agencies, including the sheriff’s office and the state police, Sgt. Moline said. “The community’s responding to the message.”

The sheriff’s office has deployed six deputies and the state police three troopers to patrol the project area.

Sgt. Moline believes conditions will improve as motorists grow more comfortable with the detours.

They may adjust their commuting schedules to get an early start or experiment with alternative routes, he suggested.

The “Cut the Hills” project team — VDOT, the sheriff’s office, state police and the Culpeper office of contractor Chemung Contracting Corp. — conduct morning and end-of-day meetings to discuss the project and related issues, Cpl. Moline said.

The meetings allow team members to share feedback and suggest ways to improve safety and traffic flows, he explained.

For example, he plans to recommend the installation of a sign along Warrenton’s Eastern Bypass directing all northbound Route 29 truck traffic to Route 17.

Most motorists who posted comments on Fauquier Now’s Facebook page had no issues with the detour plan, with some noting that it shaved time off their Tuesday morning commutes.

“Leaving Warrenton from 605 to 28,” Amber Aliff wrote. “Was less traffic this morning. Got to work in 32 minutes. Usually takes about 45 mins to an hour. I guess everyone jumped (on) 66.”

Barbara Schade wrote: “With assistance of sheriff waving on traffic, absolutely no issue at 7:45 a.m.”

Bonnie Jeffries said: “The sheriff’s (deputies) are doing a great job helping w/the detour. It was quick, easy.”

“Easy like Sunday morning,” Alex Pierce wrote of his morning drive.

But some experienced delays. “Normal 20-minute drive to Catharpin was about 35 minutes,” Cristie Intrabartolo wrote. “Sigh.”

Commenting on the Route 17 detour, Kevin Nickson said: “Lots of extra traffic on 17, but it was moving at speed.”

In one of the few negative comments, Mary Lewis complained about speeding. “It sucked! I am a pet-sitter and Rogues and Vint Hill (roads) A MESS! Go the speed limit.”

The project will require a significant amount of “blasting” to remove the two hills, according to Chemung.

Using heavy equipment, workers Tuesday morning drilled holes for the charges.

It could take eight to 10 days of blasting to dislodge the rock, a company representative said.

Blasting probably will take place around 2 p.m. — when southbound Route 29 traffic at Vint Hill Road will cease for about eight minutes, Chemung Regional Project Manager David D. Bradeson said at a June 11 information meeting at Battlefield Baptist Church near New Baltimore.

It could take eight to 10 days of blasting to dislodge the rock, Mr. Bradeson told the audience.

Contact Don Del Rosso at or 540-270-0300. 
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