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Dahlgren Rd/Owens project prompts more objections

The King George Board of Supervisors provided unanimous consensus at a meeting on May 15 to send another letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to object to the proposed plans to spend $4.1 million on a project to widen a portion of Dahlgren Road (Route 206) at Owens. 

This one is intended to go to the state VDOT office.

The letter is being prepared by the county administrator, Travis Quesenberry. It’s not clear whether it will call for simply lowering the speed limit on Dahlgren Road, another request for a traffic signal of some type, or if other safe and simpler options will be 

asked to be explored.  

The current project is to widen Dahlgren Road to add turn lanes at the intersection with Owens Drive (Route 624) and Windsor Drive (Route 218). 

But it’s not clear how the proposal would help motorists to turn onto Dahlgren Road from the two side roads. Supervisor Ruby Brabo has made the point that VDOT’s plan might make it more dangerous for motorists to turn left onto Dahlgren Road, particularly during rush hours, by widening the expanse and the number of lanes that vehicles would have to cross. 

VDOT accident data appears to bear that out. A document on the intersection released by VDOT in March indicates the total number of accidents during an unspecified 3-year period totaled 14. It states, “Of the 14 accidents, 11 were angular and 3 were rear-end collisions.”

OBJECTIONS

Supervisors have several objections to the VDOT plan. Those were outlined in an April 13 letter from the county to the Fredericksburg District VDOT office. They included the high cost of the project, the large amount of land to be acquired for additional right-of-way and easements, and the permanent impacts to residents and businesses upon completion of construction. 

The letter noted that board members had heard from numerous residents expressing their concerns. It stated, “It seems there may be less invasive and costly alternatives that will have far less impact on the community.”

That first letter requested VDOT representatives to attend the May 15 meeting to both provide information relating to the proposed project, as well as to hear the concerns of the board and citizens. That took place last week with VDOT project manager Kevin Northridge coming before Supervisors.  

Land is to be acquired from at least 30 properties, both businesses and residences, with the board hearing from many of the impacted property owners. Last week, Dottie Burgess, representing Burgess Hauling & Excavating, said they were very concerned about the property they would be losing, with land to be taken up to 3-feet from their door, and citing problems they would have with their trucks accessing their business property. 

PROJECT BUDGET

VDOT documents indicate that 80 percent of the 4.1 million project budget is coming from federal funding and 20 percent from the state. Costs were estimated at $500,000 for the engineering design, $1,500,000 for acquisition of right-of-way, and $2,100,000 for construction. 

~ PROJECT SCHEDULE     Northridge described the project, saying it had been in the works since December 2000 when it was put through a scoping phase that lasted until July 2004. 

VDOT is currently in the process of acquiring the land needed for the right-of-way, with the project schedule calling for advertisement of the construction bid in May 2013, with construction to take over a year and expected to be completed in September 2014.

The project was largely under the county’s radar. Dahlgren Road is an arterial road and not a secondary road so it does not come within the county’s decision-making process.  

PROJECT SCOPING

Northridge said a number of different concepts were considered for the intersection. The only one he mentioned was to say an analysis was initially done to see if a traffic signal could be installed at the intersection. 

He said traffic counts don’t warrant a light at the intersection under VDOT standards and regulations. But, due to projected traffic volume, he said it was determined that turn lanes were required. He added that traffic counts indicate about 10,000 vehicles per day, with a projection to increase to over 18,000 in year 2035.  

According to VDOT documents supplied in March, the traffic counts and projections were done in 2009 indicating 10,400 vehicles using the intersection, primarily during morning and evening rush hours, and projecting traffic volume to increase to 18,600 vehicles in 2035.  

The speed limit on most of Dahlgren Road is 50 mph. It’s 40 mph at the Owens intersection. Northridge said the engineering plans for the intersection are designed to accommodate 50 mph. “We use best engineering practices and we add the 10 mph – it’s still posted at 40 mph – but we design it for the individual that decides to not follow the speed limit.” 

SUPERVISOR COMMENTS     

Supervisor Joe Grzeika commented on the methodology used, saying, “The design is based on a future projection of the traffic. The warrant is as it is today, and taking nothing else into account, you used that to get to your solution set.” 

He also questioned VDOT’s projections for a significant increase in traffic volume in 23 years, saying it had no basis in reality. “What’s going to change to make that traffic jump in the next 23 years? The base has no plans for major growth. We’re hoping to keep it where it is and not get any smaller with the defense reductions coming. So, I’m trying to figure out what the driver is for your system, and I don’t see it.” 

Grzeika said other ways to solve the problem need to be considered. “I think the standardized, textbook, brute force approach costs too much money and impacts too many people. You’re impacting several businesses. You’re going to demolish one building in this process. You’re taking cemetery land. And I just don’t understand how come it’s going to take that much to solve a problem that wasn’t all that big when we identified it.” 

Supervisor John LoBuglio said he thought the board should provide its input directly to the state. “You say there isn’t enough traffic volume to warrant a traffic light, but I believe the county board can put in a recommendation that is strong enough to reach the Governor and the Secretary of Transportation and say we don’t agree with that.” 

LoBuglio added, “I strongly recommend that we relook at a blinking light on the 206 side with the changing lights when there’s traffic that needs to turn. And that can be done without taking that adjacent property.” 

SPEED ISSUE

Supervisor Ruby Brabo criticized the plan’s design to allow for high speed though the intersection. She stated, “The first best option would be to design a plan based on lowering the speed limit to 30 mph.” She said that might “encourage a number of that base traffic to use US 301 and it also might encourage truckers to use US 301.”

Many think that speed is an issue all along the narrow two-lane road. It does not have shoulders and there are numerous access points throughout its length for private driveways and side roads.  

After hearing the board member comments, Northridge suggested, “In light of that, I would recommend this board then issue an official letter to VDOT citing that it’s going to be your recommendation to lower the speed limit on that road. And we would take that into consideration.”

Chairman Cedell Brooks agreed and all members concurred for a letter to be prepared.

 

 

Phyllis Cook

 

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