Isle of Wight County: VDOT more likely to fund roundabout than flyover

Published 5:36 pm Friday, October 27, 2023

The Virginia Department of Transportation is more likely to fund a roundabout on Turner Drive than a flyover that would allow Cary Street traffic to flow directly onto the Route 10 Bypass, according to Isle of Wight County Transportation Director Jamie Oliver.

The matter came up during a joint meeting of Smithfield’s Town Council and county supervisors on Oct. 16.

County supervisors in September voted to approve a resolution supporting a VDOT revenue-sharing grant that would fund a series of changes to Turner Drive, including the hypothetical roundabout near the site of a proposed Wawa convenience store. The road is just outside the town limits.

A report by county staff that accompanied the resolution stated the supervisors intend to seek a cost-sharing agreement among the county and at least two real estate developers to fund the 50% match for the up to $10 million grant.

The report stated that VDOT, Isle of Wight and its school system, the town of Smithfield and private stakeholders had developed a conceptual application, though Smithfield Town Manager Michael Stallings said he hadn’t seen a proposed cost-sharing agreement involving the town as of September.

“We haven’t really been included in that discussion much,” Pack said at the Oct. 16 meeting.

Of more immediate interest to the council is adding additional access from downtown Smithfield to Route 10, such as another flyover like the one that facilitates access from Smithfield’s Cypress Creek community to and from the bypass.

The issue came up repeatedly when developer Joseph Luter IV proposed his first iteration of the Grange at 10Main, which as of last month proposed adding 304 homes and a mix of commercial uses at the western edge of the town’s historic district.

Melissa Venable of Land Planning Solutions, a company Luter hired to handle the project’s planning and engineering, wrote to the council on Oct. 4 that the design team would “explore traffic pattern alternatives” when redesigning the Grange to achieve a lower density. The original proposal had called for right-in-only access from Route 10 and full access from Main, Grace and Cary streets.

VDOT spokesman Timothy Kelley told The Tidewater News in January that Luter’s original plan for full access from the Grange to Route 10 was “discouraged” and “an alternate partial access entrance” was proposed, which would have allowed incoming traffic from Route 10 but not outgoing traffic.

“The Route 10 Bypass was constructed as a limited access highway,” Kelley had said. “Therefore, that roadway is especially designed for through traffic and abutting properties do not have easement or right of access. Any additional entrances create conflict points that may obstruct through traffic and present a safety issue.”

Oliver, at the Oct. 16 meeting, advised that traffic coming into downtown via Cary Street from the county is “not the type of congestion that creates priorities” for state funding.

“VDOT has not received any formal requests by the Town of Smithfield, Isle of Wight County or the local developers to review or conduct a traffic study related to a possible reconfiguration of Cary Street/Mill Swamp Road to tie directly into Route 10,” Kelley said when contacted by the Times for comments on the discussed flyover. “Therefore, without a detailed study and more specific information, we are unable to speak to a speculative project concept.”

What makes the Turner Drive project more likely to be funded, and that funding coming available sooner, is the 50% local match, Oliver said.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of pending economic development and other residential communities planned for the area.

Two mixed-use developments along the Benns Church Boulevard corridor, one just outside the town’s limits and the other just inside, have been proposed. The Sweetgrass community, which would add commercial space and 615 homes at the former Yeoman farm, is awaiting a recommendation by the county’s Planning Commission. The Promontory, which would add 262 homes behind the Smithfield Tractor Supply and five commercial parcels along the corridor, is under review by town staff.