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Supervisor pushes VDOT for traffic light in front of Food Lion

by Larry Chowning

At the August 6 Middlesex County Board of Supervisors meeting, Harmony Village District supervisor Jack Miller questioned the recent decision of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to modify the intersection in front of Food Lion in Saluda, as opposed to installing a traffic light.

The intersection is being modified because of the numerous accidents that have occurred there over the years.

VDOT’s plan is to have all traffic that is leaving Saluda on Business Route 17 to turn right onto Route 17. Those who want to enter Food Lion would immediately merge into the left lane and then into the proposed left turn-lane at a proposed new crossover. This median crossover would be for entering only. Motorists in the crossover would enter through the existing north entrance to Food Lion.

Motorists leaving the north entrance of Food Lion who want to go to Saluda, would turn right onto Route 17 (south), merge into the left lane, and then into the left turn lane leading to the intersection of Route 17 Business, where they could turn left and proceed to Saluda.

Vehicles approaching from the south could still turn left from Route 17 at the current intersection, while motorists coming from Saluda who want to go south on Route 17 would first turn right and then make a U-turn at the proposed turn lane and median.

“It sounds all too complicated for me,” said Miller. “I just don’t understand why you don’t put a light there and solve the problem that way.”

Miller asked VDOT resident engineer Sean Trapani what was the cost of installing a traffic signal versus the cost of modifying the intersection. Trapani said a signal will cost about $500,000 and the changes to the intersection are estimated to cost $1 million, “but we think it will be less. It might be cheaper to install a signal, but just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it’s always the right thing to do.”

Trapani told Miller, “Would you want to be sitting at a signal right there with a tractor trailer coming 55 miles per hour toward you?”

Trapani said drivers cruising down Route 17 who are unfamiliar with the area are not thinking there is going to be a traffic light around the curve at the Food Lion.

Trapani noted the intersection is still in the planning stage. A public hearing on the proposal will be scheduled “probably” some time in September. It will be held in Middlesex County in one of the public school auditoriums.

posted 08.14.2013

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