Windsor questions VDOT on 460

Published 2:33 pm Friday, January 15, 2016

Michael Tugman, P.E., consultant project manager for Route 460, addressed Windsor City Council and town residents on Tuesday about the proposed northern bypass. -- Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News

Michael Tugman, P.E., consultant project manager for Route 460, addressed Windsor City Council and town residents on Tuesday about the proposed northern bypass. — Stephen H. Cowles | Tidewater News

For two hours, Windsor residents and council members grilled Virginia Department of Transportation representatives on the proposed preferred alternative to Route 460. The discussion was part of the town council’s regular meeting on Tuesday evening.

At the invitation of Mayor Carita Richardson were VDOT Environmental Project Manager Angel Deem. With her were environmental manager Caleb Parks; and Michael Tugman, P.E., consultant project manager, U.S. Route 460, Corridor Improvements Project with HDR Inc.

The visit comes after the mayor expressed concerns in December about the plan. In late November, the Army Corps of Engineers announced a comment period effective through Jan. 5, which would allow people to write in the questions and concerns about the permit filed for the project.

For a variety of reasons, she called on the corps to extend the time to 60 days; ultimately, they ACOE granted 15 days to Wednesday, Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, on review of enlarged maps, Richardson perceived that the changes had been made regarding promised entrances and exits at 460. For example, it appeared to her that the 258 and intermodal park accommodations are gone.

With an enlarged map at hand that night, Tugman showed how the 17-mile new road could go from Suffolk, bypass Windsor on the north, crossing over Route 258 without a transfer point, and connect to the existing 460 at Zuni.

Not incidentally, residents are welcome to stop in the town office during business hours Monday through Friday to view the map for themselves.

One of the concerns about the proposal is safety. With signalization, trucks and other vehicles from the west could get onto the bypass. But that apparently didn’t satisfy everyone.

“How is it safer than what we have now,” asked Brenda Peters of Five Forks Road. “For the people in Windsor, that design does not improve our safety on that road. You’ve added safety issues by allowing trucks to stop and cross [from the existing to the new path], because you’re trying to reduce wetlands impact in order to get a permit. That’s what it looks like to me. You’ve sacrificed that need.”

Tugman assured them that safety is factored into the design.

“This study isn’t in a position to prohibit trucks,” said Deem, and added “a lot of advanced engineering has gone into the project, and by no means is the engineering work complete.”

Supervisor Dick Grice of the Smithfield District said, “It would be to our advantage to ask the intersection be larger in scope,” to which she agreed.

Design was another concern.

Councilman Durwood Scott asked later if there could be a different study be done say in 10 years?

Deem replied that a new study could always be funded.

Supervisor Rex Alphin of the Carrsville District said he recalled that when the plan was presented, cloverleafs were in place, but had since been taken away.

Deem said that there was a possibility of such interchanges, but no decision has been made.

Town Manager Michael Stallings asked if there could be any improvements for the old 460?

Tugman said there are some minor improvements planned, but had no details.

On the matter of the environment, Richardson said, “The northern corridor is a unique ecosystem, Very different from the southern. We have trees older than our country that would come down. What about endangered species?”

Parks said that surveys were conducted for barking tree frogs and salamanders, but such had not yet been found.

“If you find them, what happens,” she asked.

“We’ll avoid those trees,” Deem said.

The mayor noted that transparency is another matter.

“People are paying attention,” she continued. “I think this is going to cause a dangerous situation. Once you get to Zuni, there’s [the possibility of] flooding. Please, please think about that.”

Councilman Tony Ambrose said, “I could almost swallow this if it [the bypass ] went from A to B. I feel I have been lied to — no, not lied to — lead. Now you’re changing the rules of the game. I just can’t get behind that myself.”

Council Fleming concurred, adding that “the project has changed the rules.”

Grice advised that “This is a process. The deadline’s extended. We need to look at each of the targets. We have to stay within process.”

Both Billy Gwaltney of Deer Path Road and Scott were not optimistic about the proposal.

“It ruins us,” Gwaltney said. “I don’t see how it’s good for the whole.”

Scott: “It’s sure to kill us, the town of Windsor.”

“We don’t mean to be hard, but we don’t understand this,” said Richardson. “I hope you’re not taking this personally. But somebody needs to answer these questions. I’m disappointed in the communication. There was no collaboration. The locals know what the problems are a lot better than someone from Richmond.”

Alphin acknowledged Deem, Parks and Tugman don’t make the decision on the project, but said, “I would like to see the project halted.”

Last year, the supervisors then approved a resolution supporting the preferred alternative as a bargaining chip to have some say in the plan.

On Tuesday, he suggested that board of supervisors now might partner with Council on how to deal with it.

Councilman N. Macon Edwards III said, “I think we as a town council need to get on the same page to decide whether we want this bypass. We need to get together with the county.”

Tugman said for people to contact the ACOE.

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Letters should be mailed to:
Col. Jason Kelly
Alice Allen-Grimes
803 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510