After nearly 11 years with only one stoplight in Nelson County, another traffic signal is on its way to the border of Nelson and Albemarle counties.
A temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Virginia 151 and U.S. 250 in Albemarle County, just over the Albemarle/Nelson line, is slated to go up in the next couple of months.
According to Stacy Londrey, communications manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation Culpeper District, of which Albemarle is a member, work should be “fairly quick to complete.” Londrey did not give an exact timeline for the project, but Nelson County Administrator Stephen Carter said during the Dec. 13 Nelson Board of Supervisors meeting he thinks the project should be complete by March.
Also included in the project is installation of an advance-warning flasher for U.S. 250 eastbound traffic, where there is a steep downhill that makes stopping difficult, especially for tractor-trailers, Londrey said.
The advance flasher will be “intelligent,” meaning it is activated when the signal turns yellow or when the traffic backup at the signal reaches a certain length, Jones said.
The total cost for the project is about $200,000.
For months, Supervisor Tommy Harvey and other board members have acknowledged the ongoing problems near the intersection. During peak hours, there often are long backups on Virginia 151 as motorists wait to turn at the stop sign that cause unnecessary frustration, Harvey has said.
According to VDOT, an average of 6,700 vehicles travel U.S. 250 each day, and Virginia 151 carries 10,000 vehicles per day. Both roads have about 7 percent truck traffic, which is relatively high, Londrey said.
The backups, Laundry explained, also lead to an increased risk of rear-end crashes and can cause more serious crashes when people pull out in front of vehicles traveling swiftly on U.S. 250.
“I would venture to say that the crash risk is even greater when brewery and winery traffic is at its peak,” she added, “since most of those drivers would be unfamiliar with the area.”
When U.S. 250 is repaved in 2018, VDOT plans to add a high-friction surface treatment to the road’s eastbound lane, which should help to prevent hydroplaning and skidding when conditions are wet or icy.
Long term, VDOT is proposing a roundabout at the intersection, but the proposal is dependent on funding. VDOT applied for funds for the roundabout through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. Albemarle also has submitted an application for funding through the state’s program.
According the program’s website, Smart Scale is “about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects … based on an objective, outcome-based process.”
VDOT should hear about the applications in the spring. If the applications are approved, VDOT will determine a schedule for the project, which would include a public hearing.
Nelson’s only stoplight was installed in early 2006 on U.S. 29 in Lovingston.
Other VDOT projects in the area are nearing completion.
A VDOT traffic study of the Arrington area near Oak Ridge Estate established should be complete by the spring. According to Rick Youngblood, district planner for VDOT’s Lynchburg District, of which Nelson is a member, said the study was established “to review event planning scenarios to identify potential infrastructure improvements needed to support the Lockn’ Music Festival as well as other events of various sizes.” The first meetings on the study began about six months ago.
The approximately $100,000 study was undertaken by VDOT’s regional on-call contractor and currently is in process, according to VDOT. When the study is finalized, it will be posted on the Lynchburg District Projects and Studies page on VDOT’s website.
According to Paula Jones, communications manager for the VDOT Lynchburg District, Nelson also has submitted two additional project applications for funding through Smart Scale.
One of the projects tackles access management along U.S. 29 through the Colleen corridor. The proposal focuses on entrance consolidation and reconstruction near the Colleen Drive-In. The application was submitted by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The amount requested is $1.3 million from the High Program and District Grant Programs.
The other project application, also submitted by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, focuses on the intersection of Virginia 6 and Virginia 151. According to Jones, “short project description” is to widen the east leg of the intersection, creating a wider receiving lane for turning vehicles. Consideration also would be given to a roundabout or southbound left turn bay. The amount requested is $2.2 million from the District Grant Program.
The projects are not currently part of any VDOT Six-Year Improvement Plan and will have to be screened and evaluated prior to moving forward, Jones said. The public will have an opportunity to comment on them should they be approved for inclusion in the draft and final plans.