Improvements to King William intersections on horizon

jojacobs@tidewaterreview.com

Don’t let the sometimes-lonely rural roads of Tidewater fool you. The area is home to a handful of accident-prone intersections, particularly in King William, where some efforts are underway to improve safety.

With Route 360 intersecting Route 30 in the north and the relative traffic congestion in parts of West Point in the south, King William has several intersections with a notable history of vehicle accidents.

The crossroads of Richmond-Tappahannock Highway and King William Road, routes 360 and 30 respectively, is a primary artery between Richmond and the state’s northeastern coastal regions. That intersection saw 21 vehicle accidents between 2013-16. Five crashes caused injuries, according to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data.

The state recently approved a King William application for a $3 million improvement project at the intersection. The project would widen the intersection, improve driver’s line of sight, provide space for new turn lanes and add a crosswalk and pedestrian crossing signal, among other improvements, VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon said.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board approved the project’s funding as part of the state’s six-year transportation budget in 2016. The project is anticipated to be advertised to bidders for construction in the fall of 2021, Hannon said.

High traffic volume and the location of the intersection may contribute to its unfortunate distinction of being among the most accident-prone intersections in King William.

“It’s the sheer volume of traffic,” King William Sheriff Jeff Walton said. “That’s the center of the county.”

VDOT estimates 22,700 vehicles entered the intersection each day in 2016, Hannon said.

No fatalities were reported at the intersection 2013-16, according to the DMV.

With thousands of vehicles funneled through West Point daily, the intersection at Main and 14th streets has also seen its share of traffic accidents.

There have been 20 incidents in three years, and four of those incidents caused injuries, according to DMV data.

Just a block north, vehicles smashed into each other 15 times between 2013-16 at the intersection of Main and 15th streets, according to the DMV.

The two intersections proximity to one another makes the problem difficult to address. About two or three years ago, traffic on Kirby Street was banned from making turns onto 15th Street to reach Main Street, a decision that appears to have alleviated traffic congestion in that part of town, West Point Town Manager John Edwards said.

VDOT officials have already identified the intersection as one that could be a potential location for safety improvements through the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which provides federal funds for projects intended to reduce crashes, Hannon said.

VDOT intends to approach local officials with improvement options during the 2018 fiscal year. The transportation department hasn’t recently studied the intersection at Main and 14th streets for improvements, but intends to review the site’s crash history in the near future, Hannon said.

An average of 3,900 vehicles travel Route 30 between the town limit and 14th Street a day, Hannon said. The stretch is also a common route for trucks that travel in the region.

No deaths have resulted from crashes at either West Point intersection, according to VDOT.

New Kent and King and Queen counties have their share of dangerous intersections, though officials say there’s no firm improvement projects planned in in either county.

Intersection accidents occur more frequently at several intersections in the eastern part of New Kent.

Between 2013 and 2016, there were 13 crashes — four of which resulted in injuries — at the intersection of New Kent Highway and Eltham Road. The intersections of Eltham Road and Farmers Drive and New Kent Highway and Farmers Drive both saw 12 crashes during the same period, with three and four resultant injuries, respectively. No fatalities occurred as a result of these crashes, according to the DMV.

A traffic study has been conducted for the New Kent Highway and Farmers Drive intersection, and the county expects to receive that study “any day now,” New Kent County Administrator Rodney Hathaway said. The study will determine a proper course for VDOT to improve the intersection.

Discussions about the New Kent Highway and Eltham Road intersection and the Eltham Road and Farmers Drive intersection have taken place among county officials, but there aren’t defined improvements slated for either location, Hathaway said.

In King and Queen County, Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway and Richmond-Tappahannock Highway intersections are particularly accident-prone.

Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway’s intersections with Buena Vista Road and the eastern part of Centerville Road were the sites of 11 and five crashes, respectively, between 2013-16. Six crashes resulted in injuries at the former, while one crash had injuries in the latter, according VDOT.

Six crashes took place at the intersection of Richmond-Tappahannock Highway and Newton Road from 2013 to 2016. Four crashes resulted in injuries.

There’s no intersection improvement projects pending for King and Queen at this time, Hannon said.

Looking for solutions

Localities can’t unilaterally construct signage or lights on state-maintained roads. Project proposals have to be submitted to VDOT, and the transportation department decides whether a project is warranted and should be allocated funds, Hannon said.

Hannon noted there’s a range of possible improvements at an intersection, including changing signage, changing pavement markings and other measures that stop short of extensive construction.

“We are ready to discuss any ideas brought forward for improving travel and safety,” Hannon said.

When it comes to intersection accidents, driver inattention is a major factor, one that can lead to additional issues, such as speeding, King William Fire Chief Andy Aigner said.

Aigner suggested drivers pay close attention to the road and stick to the speed limit to lessen the risk of an accident.

“Don’t be in such a hurry,” Aigner said.

To that, Walton added awareness is key for drivers.

“Don’t assume that the light changes and it’s safe to move,” Walton said.

Concerned about a road?

To report concerns about a state-maintained road or intersection, call VDOT at 1-800-367-7623 or visit my.vdot.virginia.gov .

Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
32°