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VDOT gives short shrift to town’s request

Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 10:42 am

BOWLING GREEN – Members of the Town Council appealed to a state highway official about the agency’s use of a parcel near the town’s southern entrance, but he largely turned a deaf ear to their requests to spruce up the site or move it elsewhere.

However, the Town Council got one concession from Gary DuVal, residency administrator for the Fredericksburg regional office of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The parcel in question is located south of Bowling Green near the juncture of U.S. 301, where it turns northeast and bypasses the town, and South Main Street. VDOT and its contractors use the lot – unimproved and vacant – to stage materials and equipment. Truckers also occasionally park there. A short distance away is a sign welcoming motorists to the county seat.

DuVal was at the meeting to discuss several road-related issues with the Town Council, including the agency’s staging area. VDOT could plant trees around the staging area to help screen it, he suggested. The town could help by ensuring the trees are properly watered the first year, he suggested, to ensure they will survive and grow. DuVal offered to explore whether funds would be available for such a joint project.

VDOT has facilities not far north of Bowling Green where it also uses space for staging materials and equipment. However, DuVal made it clear that the agency is wedded to the parcel to the south, calling it a “super” location.

Mayor David Storke noted that when highway workers are resurfacing roads in the area, the old pavement that is milled by machines and removed is dumped at the site, and other materials are temporarily stored there, too. On top of that, he noted, tractor-trailer operators park their big rigs there.

“Just the industrial look of it is something we have a problem with,” said Storke.

DuVal was not dissuaded. “We need it as a staging area,” he said.

VDOT could erect ‘no parking’ signs if the town wishes, he added, in order to deal with the trucks. He threw the Town Council one other bone, saying VDOT could consider a new staging area when it periodically reviews and updates long-range plans.

Councilor Dan Webb pointed out that, from a land use perspective, it was unlikely a private business would have been allowed to use the parcel the way VDOT does. “It looks like a construction site year-round,” he said.

If the site was being used by a business, added Webb. the company would have to comply with VDOT requirements for a state-approved entrance to the parcel, among other things.

“It is kind of the gateway coming into town,” said Webb.

DuVal also told the Town Council the agency would like to proceed with plans to install a crosswalk and flashing light on West Broaddus Avenue near the Bowling Green Plaza shopping center, which was requested by Supervisor Floyd Thomas. Residents of apartments located on the opposite side of West Broaddus frequently walk back and forth between their homes and the shopping center. There were no objections to the plans, and DuVal indicated VDOT is considering locating a second crosswalk further west on West Broaddus, closer to Anderson Avenue.

That evolved into a brief discussion about reducing the speed limit in that area of West Broaddus. The current speed limit is 45 mph. Town officials have been interested in reducing it to 35 mph in part to allow golf carts to cross the road; they are prohibited by state law from crossing roads where the speed limit is higher than 35 mph.

When the Town Council was briefed on the issue at an earlier meeting, it was told that, if a VDOT study showed motorists are traveling 45 mph or faster in the area in question, the speed limit could not be reduced.

Webb raised that question with DuVal.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said DuVal, to lower the speed limit if a study shows motorists are traveling faster.

“Sometimes laws don’t make a whole lot of sense,” he added.

He would be glad to have the department perform the speed study, said DuVal, but the results could “lock the town into something it does not want.”

The council also briefly discussed a request for the town to be allowed to erect temporary banners and signs on VDOT property located near the intersection of U.S. 301 and East Broaddus Ave. and Broaddus and Main Street in order to promote special events. DuVal said he would research the town’s request.