The goal with roadwork is to make improvements, but when changes are made in one area, unintended consequences can emerge elsewhere.
The extension of the express lanes on Interstate 95, where the chokepoint worked its way from Dumfries to the Garrisonville area in Stafford County, is a good case in point. It will continue to move south as the express lanes are extended and other new lanes are added to the interstate in the Rappahannock River crossing projects.
There appears to be an issue with another local project.
The revamped Falmouth intersection opened in late 2015, and it seems to have improved things at the intersection itself, where U.S. 1, U.S. 17 and Butler Road cross.
On the northbound side of U.S. 1 near the red lights, however, there is a little side road, Carter Street. And Carter Street—or more specifically, drivers’ misuse of it—has been causing a problem.
That isn’t the first side street impact on traffic around the intersection.
Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation nixed left turns from Butler Road to Carter Street and Colonial Avenue because of problems at those spots, which are near the traffic signals.
A reader who drives that area frequently wrote to point out what she has seen where cars pull from Carter Street to U.S. 1.
“Just yesterday, I saw two wrecks ‘almost’ happen. If you go there between 5 and 6 p.m. on any workday, you will see what I am talking about,” Donna Harter wrote in a recent email.
She said cars trying to turn from Carter Street to get into the left-turn lanes to U.S. 17 “are causing extreme backups and dangerous behavior.”
“Here is what happens almost every night when I go home:
“A car from Carter Street puts its nose out into the first lane of U.S. 1 traffic. Then when the light turns green, they inch out a bit more—holding up both lanes of U.S. 1 straight-through traffic and backing up the onto bridge. Cars honk, cars try to change lanes to zip around the backup but don’t get anywhere because they don’t know what is causing the backup. All they see is a green light—and no one is moving.
“Finally, the Carter Street car noses its way all the way over to the first lane of the left-turn lanes—meanwhile (in the case of a pickup pulling a trailer as I saw last night) they are effectively blocking three lanes of traffic.”
Harter said this scenario plays out each day when she passes through the intersection heading home.
She believes, at the very least, a restriction should be placed on turning traffic at Carter Street, if not a full closure.
Local VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon said the department “will take a look at it ... to see if any modifications are needed.”