Turner Drive roundabout in proposed VDOT plan for Isle of Wight

Published 9:00 am Monday, May 20, 2024

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A roundabout at Turner Drive, a long-planned 1.4-mile extension of Nike Park Road and closed-circuit television cameras to monitor Route 17 traffic are among the Isle of Wight County projects listed in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s proposed six-year improvement plan for Hampton Roads.

County supervisors have scheduled a 6 p.m. public hearing on the plan for May 16, according to a public notice published in The Smithfield Times’ May 8 edition. Area residents can also comment online or by mail through May 20 directly to the 17-member Commonwealth Transportation Board, which has the final say in June over which projects get funded.

The roundabout

County supervisors passed a resolution in September committing up to $5 million for the single-lane roundabout and dual westbound left-turn lanes from Benns Church Boulevard onto Turner as its half of a VDOT revenue-sharing program that allows localities to request up to $10 million. 

According to the draft six-year plan, the $7.6 million project, slated for construction in 2028, would receive $4.4 million, or just under 58%, of its funding via the revenue-sharing program. Isle of Wight and the state would each contribute $1.1 million in fiscal years 2026-27 and 2027-28, for a $2.2 million local match over two years.

According to a county staff report from last fall, Isle of Wight is anticipating growth along the Benns Church corridor and intends to seek a cost-sharing agreement with at least two real estate developers.

Miami-based Frontier Development, which in 2021 proposed building a Wawa gas station and convenience store adjacent to Smithfield High School and the Benns Church and Turner intersection, wrote in September to county Transportation Director Jamie Oliver that the company “remains interested and is committed to participating in future discussions with the County and Town (of Smithfield) on a proposed cost sharing agreement.”

Oliver received similarly worded letters last year from Charlottesville-based developer Greenwood Homes and Hampton-based real estate firm Harrison and Lear Inc. Greenwood last year submitted a rezoning application to the town proposing a 262-home development dubbed “The Promontory” at Benns Church, and confirmed to The Smithfield Times that the company is negotiating to acquire and expand the 315-home St. Luke’s Village development that’s been stalled since its 2005 county rezoning approval.

The letters also referenced an agreement with Henry Layden, trustee of the 250-acre Yeoman farm on which the Wawa and a 615-home mixed-use development dubbed “Sweetgrass” would be built.

Plans for the Wawa stalled after Isle of Wight’s Planning Commission, in 2022, recommended approval of a conditional use permit conditioned on its developers submitting an “alternative intersection design” for Turner Drive “such as a single-lane roundabout.”

The six-year plan’s Turner Drive project, if funded, would become “part of VDOT’s locally administered program, meaning it would be managed and constructed by Isle of Wight County,” said VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Alvord.

Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said he hadn’t seen illustrations of the roundabout yet, but said it would be located solely on Turner Drive as opposed to taking the place of the existing Benns Church and Turner intersection.

Nike Park Road

Plans to extend Nike Park Road so that it connects directly to Route 17, also known as Carrollton Boulevard, have been in the works since 2014. The project, in addition to extending the road, will entail adding a traffic signal and additional turn lanes at its new Route 17 intersection, located just over a quarter-mile south of the Nest on 17 apartments.

The proposed six-year plan would allocate $19.7 million for the project, $17.5 million of which would come from federal and state funds.

According to Alvord, the project has been advertised for construction with bids due May 22.

“Dependent on the receipt of responsive and acceptable bids, the project could be awarded as early as summer 2024, with construction estimated to start as early as late summer 2024,” Alvord said.

Isle of Wight County, which is collaborating with VDOT to handle right-of-way acquisitions, last year authorized the condemnation, or seizure, of a final piece of land through eminent domain last year for right-of-way and easements.

Route 17

The proposed six-year plan would allocate $4.8 million from state Innovation and Technology Transportation Funds, or ITTF, for what the plan refers to as “integrated corridor management” for Route 17 from the James River Bridge in Isle of Wight to its interchange with Interstate 664, 16.8 miles away in Suffolk.

According to Alvord, the project is geared toward improving available driver information and incident management using automated control and notification systems.

“The Route 17 corridor from the James River Bridge in Isle of Wight County to I-664 in Suffolk is a commonly used alternate route when incidents, congestion or closures occur at the Interstate 664 (I-664) Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel or the Interstate 64 (I-64) Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel,” Alvord said.

The $4.8 million would fund the second of what’s planned as a three-phase project. The first, which is complete, entailed a study to determine what physical assets could provide drivers with better information to navigate the Route 17 corridor. That study, according to Alvord, identified CCTV, high-speed fiber-optic communications, dedicated travel time message signs and vehicle detection as ideal improvements.

Phase 2, she said, will design and install the proposed devices on Route 17. Future funding would address the third phase, which calls for the design and installation of the devices on I-64 in Newport News and I-664 in Suffolk.

An initial $800,000 in ITTF money funded the study and preliminary engineering.

The first $1 million of the allocated ITTF construction money would be available in fiscal year 2024-25. The remaining $3 million would be available in 2025-26.

A separate $12.2 million in state and federal funds to widen  Route 17, potentially by adding a third southbound lane from the James River Bridge to its intersection with Smiths Neck Road 1.3 miles away, is included in the six-year plan but likely won’t see construction start until 2033. An initial $1.1 million for preliminary engineering is slated to come available in 2028.

An initial $500,000 for the strengthening of the James River Bridge’s concrete beams is also slated to come available in fiscal year 2024-25 though construction, estimated at $16 million, wouldn’t begin until 2036.

What else is in the plan?

Additional state funding proposed for road improvements in Isle of Wight County over the next six years includes:

  • $972,000 for reconstruction of the Benns Church and Turner intersection without added capacity. Construction would begin in 2028.
  • $3.2 million for added turn lanes at the intersection of Routes 460 and 258 in the town of Windsor. Construction would begin in 2026.
  • $7.5 million to replace the Blue Ridge Trail bridge over Great Swamp near Windsor. Construction would begin in 2029.
  • $6.2 million to replace the Mill Swamp Road bridge over Stallings Creek near Smithfield.

Citizens can comment at https://www.ctb.virginia.gov/planning/springmeetings2024/default.asp or by mail to Virginia Department of Transportation, 1401 E. Broad St., Richmond, VA 23219.