Waynesboro traffic: Problem still viewed as down the road

Growth in the commercial sector in the West End has buttressed the Waynesboro economy from the worst effects of the ongoing economic slowdown, but that growth has come with a price in the form of traffic congestion on the Lew DeWitt Boulevard-Rosser Avenue corridor.

it stands to reason that the explosion in retail that pulls in thousands of consumers from Western Albemarle who prefer Waynesboro congestion to Charlottesville congestion could blow up in another way if the city doesn’t take proactive steps.

For an indication of how hot-button this issue is, consider how much people don’t want to be on record talking about it. One Planning Commissioner contacted in connection with this story begged out; a top city official reached did an interview, then asked not to be quoted in the story.

It’s understandable why. The solution to the issues with congestion in the West End involves, basically, money – state money, local money, neither of which was exactly flowing back when the economy was rolling along in the early to mid 2000s, and certainly isn’t now in the midst of a downturn with conservatives in charge of local and state policy decisions.

Dealing with the state issue first, the word from the local Virginia Department of Transportation office in Staunton is that there are no plans related to that corridor in the state six-year transportation plan. The Lew DeWitt-Rosser corridor connects to Interstate 64 at Exit 94, and issues involving traffic congestion on the local roads could cause issues with congestions on the interstate, which is why VDOT has to be part of the equation here.

A local VDOT spokesperson told AugustaFreePress.com in an e-mail that the transportation department is not seeking to add a turn lane at the interchange or add capacity to the overpass. Which is interesting to note, because the city official with whom we spoke on this topic, and later asked not to be quoted, points to capacity on the overpass as being a key matter. “That’s the big chokepoint,” the oficial told us in relaying the message that “there’s not a lot you can do to improve traffic flows there without widening that bridge.”

It would be unrealistic to ask the city to take on the expense of adding capacity to an interstate overpass, so what that leaves for the foreseeable future is a series of smaller fixes.

“That interchange, the entire portion from 64 all the way down to the elementary school, is a study in bad civil design. It’s the worst civil design that I’ve ever seen. You have entrances too close to the traffic lights that are grandfathered in, you’ve got weird crisscrossing traffic all over the place, you’ve got dead-end loop roads that come back toward the interstate, like down to Cracker Barrel and over by Home Depot, which is just God-awful design,” local developer Brett Hayes said by way of offering suggestions in that direction.

Improvements forthcoming related to the recent approval by City Council of the Waynesboro Place development on Windigrove Drive will also help somewhat to ease congestion. But the bottom line seems to be that congestion in the West End is going to get worse, and for a long time, before it ever gets better, if it ever gets better. Those with a vested interest in the local economy hope the relief comes more in the form of road improvements than the alternative that has the Western Albemarle traffic rerouting back toward Charlottesville.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

augusta free press news