Traffic light at middle school gets approval, with strings

Residents of Pulaski County have gotten what they were asking for concerning a traffic light near the new middle school. But VDOT’s approval comes with strings.

Trevor Kimzey of the Gay and Neel civil engineering design firm, which has been working on the traffic light issue, provided an update on the situation Tuesday night to the Pulaski County School Board.

In his presentation, Kimzey said VDOT had given its approval for the traffic light, but only if Hatcher Road is realigned to form a four-way intersection at Route 11 and Thornspring Road in the area of Cougar Express.

The approval comes after months of traffic surveys and analysis between VDOT, Gay and Neel and RRMM Architects, the design firm for the middle school project.

The process was made more difficult when VDOT imposed new rules on granting approval for traffic signals just before voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum which paved the way for construction of the new consolidated middle school.

Kimzey said the new approval process was complicated and involved multiple reviews and analysis due to multiple property owners in the area of the intersection being impacted. There are also existing non-conforming intersection issues.

As time studying the traffic signal issue wore on, RRMM recently made the decision to move forward on the school project using a design that includes the main entrance to the school being located off Route 11 near the midway point of the property.

Early grading work at the school site, however, was done in a way that – should the traffic light finally become a reality – the primary entrance to the school could still be changed to the preferred entrance near the traffic light later in the project.

The idea of realigning Hatcher Road first came up in public during a public meeting on the middle school project last February when County Administrator Jonathan Sweet and Supervisors Chairman Andy McCready mentioned the possibility.

At that time it was suggested that one possible way for the county to fund a realignment of Hatcher Road might be through a revenue sharing agreement with VDOT.

In his presentation Tuesday, Kimzey said the just concluded TIA (Traffic Impact Analysis) had “laid the foundation for future Hatcher Road realignment and school access from that road.”

It also, he said, “opens the door for improved development opportunities along Hatcher.”

As for funding, Kimzey’s presentation suggested a revenue sharing application with VDOT being submitted in 2019 and funding possibly coming in 2020.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot

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