A recent column highlighted a $1 million Virginia Department of Transportation project to upgrade 11 intersections with handicapped-accessible ramps, crosswalks and pedestrian-crossing equipment in Spotsylvania County.
The bulk of the intersections are along State Route 208, with others on Harrison Road and a pair of U.S. 1 intersections in the Massaponax area.
Something was missing, however, in both the column and around the intersections. The omission did not go unnoticed by a reader and a Spotsylvania supervisor in whose district much of the work is being done.
County resident John Harvin was thankful for the article, but added in an email that, “You must have not actually seen the work. VDOT in their usual haste failed to actually [verify] the drawing against some of the intersections. This is specifically on Harrison Road. The plans called for and followed by the contractor did not take into account the lack of sidewalks at most of these intersections.”
At the Jan. 28 Board of Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Chris Yakabouski said he “appreciated the idea” but added that the “execution was kind of lacking” on what he called “safety signals to nowhere.”
He said VDOT should add the safety crossings to other areas he believes need them more—along U.S. 1 in the Four Mile Fork area and on Lafayette Boulevard, for instance.
Local VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon acknowledged that drivers probably have been wondering why the crosswalk infrastructure is being added when there are no sidewalks.
She pointed out that VDOT chose the intersections as part of its Pedestrian Action plan, “which was published in 2018 in response to a rising statewide trend of pedestrian crashes, injuries and fatalities. Pedestrian fatalities in Virginia increased 19 percent from 2012 to 2016, and nationally pedestrian fatalities increased by 24 percent over the same time period.”
She added that regardless of the lack of sidewalks, people still cross the roads at the intersections.
Hannon also said there are numerous options to add sidewalks in the future.
The Board of Supervisors, for one, can use state funds appropriated to localities for secondary road work. Another option for the county is the state’s Smart Scale program, which scores and ranks projects for funding.
“Also,” she added, “there are federal programs that fund sidewalks in qualifying cases, such as the HSIP (Highway Safety Improvement Program), or Safe Routes to Schools. Additionally, any new development in these areas can fund and install new sidewalk segments.”
As for the “safety signals to nowhere” jab, Yakabouski might want to take note of the once infamous “bridge to nowhere.”
That span is now part of what is known as the Blue and Gray Parkway, which was completed in 1995. The nickname came about because the bridge was built many years before the roads around it in a project that took 27 years to complete.
The Blue and Gray Parkway project was marred by controversy, but today the bypass is used by more than 40,000 drivers on average each day, and they are certainly using that bridge to get somewhere.