Albemarle County supervisors agreed last week to support elimination of a stoplight at U.S. 29’s intersection with Burnley Station Road and Fray’s Mill Road.
The purpose of the proposed change is to speed traffic along the main highway.
The result, we fear, will be to create a dangerous situation for travelers wishing to cross U.S. 29 from Fray’s Mill to Burnley Station or vice versa.
At present, the stoplight ensures safe crossing. If the intersection is reworked as proposed, direct crossing would be eliminated. Instead, drivers would have to go past the intersection and make U-turns in order to reverse direction and then gain access to either Burnley Station or Fray’s Mill.
We all know how busy U.S. 29 is, especially at rush hour. Making U-turns is risky, and will continue to be so — even though the proposal creates two new cross-overs in the median at locations presumably affording good sight distance.
The very fact that this change is intended to keep traffic moving quickly also means that it will be just that much tougher to negotiate a U-turn.
Burnley Station Road is also the access route to popular Preddy Creek Park. The park was deliberately designed to provide hiking, biking and equestrian trails, with plenty of parking space for horse trailers.
That means trailers will be attempting to manage the new traffic pattern as well. Even if they aren’t trying to cross from Fray’s Mill to Burnley Station and don’t have to make a U-turn, they still will have to negotiate a redesigned intersection that will have barriers installed at its center, which appear to have the effect of narrowing the access lanes. Then, as with all left-turning vehicles, they will have to try to dash across fast-flowing through traffic.
This looks to us like a recipe for disaster.
The county supervisors who represent these two areas, Ann H Mallek and Bea LaPisto Kirtley, voted against the proposal — which should have been a warning in itself: The supervisors know their districts. For both to oppose the project strongly indicates that it’s not a good project.
Their colleagues, who were in the majority, voted to advance it.
This doesn’t mean the intersection alterations will go forward, however.
The Board of Supervisors was voting on pre-applications to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Final applications are not due until Aug. 3, and by then the board will have to cut its current list by about half.
Also on that pre-approved list are a project to close the open median on the U.S. 250 corridor from Peoples Place to Hanson Road; a roundabout at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53; a roundabout at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street Extended; improvements at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road; interchange improvements at Fontaine Avenue and the U.S. 29 Bypass; a shared-use path on U.S. 29 from Carrsbrook Drive to Riverside Center; a park-and-ride lot at Exit 107 off Interstate 64; and a trail hub and trails at Fifth Street Extended.
The Fray’s Mill-Burnley Station proposal might not survive that revision.
And even if the county continues to support it, VDOT might not fund it.
But before VDOT gets that chance, the board should take a second, and harder, look at the intersection. In theory, helping traffic to flow freely on U.S. 29 isn’t a bad idea. But in practice, it’s a bad plan for this location.