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New roundabout could be on the horizon following City Council authorization

rarriaza@vagazette.com

Motorists on their way to the upcoming Midtown Row development or William and Mary may find themselves navigating a new traffic circle at the center of a busy city intersection in the coming years.

City Council unanimously authorized the City Manager’s Office to apply for VDOT funding for four large-scale roadwork projects, which includes the installation of a new roundabout at the intersection of Richmond Road, Monticello Avenue and Lafayette Street.

During his presentation to Council, city engineer Aaron Small explained that the $4 million traffic circle project would replace the existing traffic signal at the intersection with a “one or two lane” roundabout.

“In addition to improving safety by minimizing the conflict points, roundabouts also save energy of both the city by reducing the electrical and maintenance costs for traffic signals, but also the public will no longer have to wait idle for a signal light to change,” Small said.

This project, along with three others, would be funded through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program. The program allows localities to submit transportation funding requests to VDOT, which reviews the requests through a regional transportation board.

Project requests are evaluated every two years by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, but it can take years before the projects begin to materialize, according to Small. He said that if the four applications are approved by VDOT, project funds would likely not be available until fiscal year of 2024.

“Some projects could begin sooner, but only as funds become available,” he said.

The city engineer also presented plans to improve traffic signals on Richmond Road and Lafayette Street. If approved, the city would install “GPS unit”-style systems into seven existing traffic lights along Richmond Road which would better synchronize their timing, according to Small. The seven signals stretch from Governor Berkeley Road to Monticello Avenue, and include lights at busy intersections near the new Earth Fare grocery store and along Ironbound Road.

The city also would install new timing and synchronization systems into three traffic signals along Lafayette Street between Armistead Avenue and North Henry Street.

The funds also would allow the city to add pedestrian signals to intersections along the two roads as needed.

The Richmond Road signal coordination project is estimated to cost $190,000. while the Lafayette Street project would cost nearly $60,000 in VDOT grant funds.

“Both coordination projects would improve progression for vehicles that pass through the lights with up to four different timing patterns for peak and off-peak traffic as necessary,” said Small. “VDOT has advised that our application requests for these two projects be accelerated, if possible, due to their relatively low cost and simplicity, so we’re actually hoping for earlier implementation than FY 2024.”

The last project would widen travel lanes on Lafayette Street from nine feet to 11-foot lanes from Bacon Avenue to Wythe Avenue, if approved. Small said the sidewalk on the southwest side of the street would also be replaced and on-street parking would still be allowed. A new multi-use trail also would be installed on the north side of Lafayette Street, and would stretch from Wythe Avenue to the Municipal Building. The project is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

Acting City Manager Andrew Trivette emphasized that the request is provisional, and that plans could change if VDOT were to reject the roadwork funding applications.

“This should not be viewed as a commitment from the city to do these projects, this is more of an expression of intent if we’re awarded the funds and we arrive at that point in time and we’re still interested in doing them, then the money would be there,” Trivette said.

Council also approved the purchase of an electronic citation system to be used by the Williamsburg Police Department. The system will be bought with $11,200 from the city’s Law Enforcement Block Grant Fund, which Finance Director Barbara Dameron said was made available due to a surplus in the budget.

Dameron said the excess funds were made available because of interest that has been accrued in the law enforcement fund account.

“That fund is required to be in an interest-bearing account,” she said. “That interest has to be spent within the Law Enforcement Block Grant, and so over the years, there’s been an accumulation of that interest.”

This new system would replace the pen-and-paper ticketing system used by the police department, and would instead allow officers to scan barcodes on the offender’s driver’s license or vehicle registration to instantly pull up relevant information and generate reports and citations.

Police Chief Sean Dunn said the $11,200 will go toward the cost of the initial program purchase, but will not cover the cost of the necessary scanners, printers and ongoing maintenance. He estimates those costs to take an additional $4,000 out of the city’s General Fund.

“It allows the officer to be much safer during the traffic stop, rather than looking down and writing the ticket, they’re actually able to spend a whole lot less time looking at the computer and more time focusing on the vehicle,” said Dunn.

Next meeting

When: August 6, 4 p.m.

Where: City Council Chambers, Stryker Center (401 N Boundary St.)

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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