Clarke board wants more road plan data

Posted: April 20, 2013

The Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to host a May 21 public hearing on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Six-Year Secondary Road Plan.

VDOT pays for the work on all county roads, but the supervisors want more information about the roadways in the plan and the associated costs.

The supervisors also told Edwin Carter, VDOT program manager, that they need some idea of whether they can reassign funds from one project to another as they see important needs.

The supervisors see one road and two intersections as their priorities for traffic safety improvements:

Westwood Road is still an issue, even though school bus traffic on the street has been dramatically reduced since students moved out of the former Clarke County High School in September.

“We’re still going to have an elementary school there” at some point in the future, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Michael Hobert.

Carter said money may be left from the Mosby Boulevard project — which involved extending that roadway from Battlefield Estates to West Main Street around the north and west sides of the new high school — that could be used for Westwood.

But, he added, it would take four to six months to produce estimates for the cost of work to make Westwood safer for bus traffic.

Supervisor David Weiss said he thought such an estimate was made several years ago in connection with the new traffic circle connecting Mosby with Westwood and West Main Street.

A greater concern, but a tougher problem, is the intersection of Shepherd’s Mill Road and Harry Byrd Highway (Va. 7).

Nine traffic accidents have occurred there in the last five years, Carter said, including five involving injuries.

“It’s the most dangerous [intersection] in my district,” said Weiss, while Supervisor Beverly McKay said he thought it was the most dangerous in the county.

A deceleration lane for westbound traffic turning north onto Shepherd’s Mill Road would be desirable, Carter said, but the J & J Corner store on the northeast corner of the intersection poses some concern.

“I don’t know how much right of way we have there,” said Carter, but he speculated that some of the islands for the gas pumps might be crowding it.

He added that the intersection has “been on our radar for years” for improvements, but said county leaders might not want to put it on the Secondary Road Plan.

“There might be other funding sources,” Carter said, “that may not be available today.”

Waiting for those funds is a gamble, but he suggested that the county government does not have enough Secondary Road money to fix the Shepherd’s Mill intersection anyway.

The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board makes all the funding decisions apportioning state and federal highway money to projects across the state. County officials no longer have much say in the projects that receive funding.

Another priority issue is the intersection of Lockes Mill Road and Harry Byrd Highway, the site of a fatal accident several years ago.

Carter promised more information about the various projects before the public hearing.

Following a public hearing Tuesday evening in the Clarke County Recreation Center, the board agreed to lease two county properties.

The former library building at 36 E. Main St. will be rented to Help With Housing, which will share the facility with local charity FISH.

“It’s the first time we’ll have everything under one roof,” said Lisa Goshen, a member of the FISH board.

Chris Daniels, chairman of the Help With Housing board, said his organization was “really excited” about the new location, “and grateful as well.”

The former county Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office at 106 N. Church St. will become the new home of Dunn Land Surveys Inc.

Attending the meeting at the Recreation Center in Chet Hobert Park were Chairman Michael Hobert and Supervisors Barbara Byrd, John Staelin, David Weiss and Beverly McKay.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com