Tuesday, July 17, 2012
We're from the government. . .
VDOT trots out dogs and ponies
Last Wednesday’s design public hearing on the widening of Interstate 64 east and west of the Rockville/Manakin interchange was a typical VDOT event. The meeting was called to inform Goochland residents of the pending construction project and allegedly receive their input on the matter.
To see all the details, visit www.VirginiaDOT.org and click on projects and studies in the Richmond Region.
At least six VDOT employees, including engineers and construction managers, were on hand to explain details of the proposed project.
Both eastbound and westbound I-64 will be widened to six lanes for 4.52 miles west of Pouncey Tract Road. Most construction will occur in the median with the expectation of minimal impact on traffic.
The total cost of the project is $34.7 million, which will be funded by a combination of state and federal money. However, a brochure distributed at the hearing warns that, because the project is in the early design stage, costs are subject to change.
The third lanes were part of the original design for the state route 288, but lack of both state and federal funds prevented their inclusion when the road was built.
Existing rush hour gridlock at the interchange will be relieved by adding lanes on the exit ramps and turn lanes on Ashland Road to keep through traffic moving. A second lane on the westbound exit ramp is expected to significantly reduce the vehicle back-up by funneling northbound traffic into the right lane at the bottom of the ramp.
According to project manager Kevin Reichert, the improvements will accommodate expected growth in the area, which he estimated at less than two percent annually, for the next 17 years.
About 40 Goochlanders showed up to hear what VDOT had to say. Most of those in attendance use the interchange every day and were skeptical about the efficacy of the proposal. This is not surprising given the recent Broad Street Road widening debacle.
One contributing factor to the existing interchange gridlock at rush hour is the mix of passenger vehicles and large trucks, which accelerate at different speeds. It takes far longer for dump trucks that service heavy industry in the area to accelerate from a dead stop than a car, so fewer vehicles make it through the traffic light, exacerbating the rush hour ramp congestion.
To the disappointment of many, there was no discussion about the westbound interchange from Route 288 to Broad Street Road. The VDOT folk did not seem particularly interested to learn that Goochlanders routinely avoid this poorly executed interchange by taking Rt. 288 to westbound I-64 and exiting at Ashland Road.
Suggestions that installation of a traffic signal at the Rt. 288/ Broad Street Road would reduce the number of cars using Ashland Road were met with the usual “traffic warrants do no support a signal there” VDOT response.
One annoyed Goochlander said: “Just put it up.”
In response to complaints about the westbound Rt. 288/Broad Street Road situation VDOT announced that a study of options for long term improvement to this interchange and the Ashland Road/ Interstate 64 area is planned, and funded, in the current fiscal year. Look for suggestions of tunnels under Rt. 288 and flyovers whose costs would far exceed the installation of a traffic signal.
(See the supervisors’ packet for July 3 on the county website at www.co.goochland.va.us for details.)
County supervisors Bob Minnick, who represents District 4, site of the proposed project, and Susan Lascollette District 1 attended. As VDOT handles all road matters, they have little say.
Curiously absent were Delegate Peter Farrell and Senator Tom Garrett, who represent this area in the General Assembly. Guess they were too busy planning ultrasound probe deployments for next year’s GA session to come and hear what vexes their constituents on a daily basis.
Given the cumbersome and convoluted road building process in Virginia, it’s a wonder that anything gets done. The VDOT staff follows mandated procedures. Goochland must work with regional planning groups to get approval for major road improvements here.
Virginia needs to address the entire transportation issue in a meaningful way. Total reform of VDOT is needed. However, this will be a complicated undertaking involving vast sums of money, influence, and an enormous bureaucracy. It’s no wonder that single term governors are reluctant to do more than chip away at the edges of the problem.
It’s time for Virginia to allow its governors to serve two consecutive terms to provide enough continuity to fix things that are broken, like VDOT.