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While state leaders struggle to find funds for an overhaul of Longhill Road, minor safety upgrades are likely on the way for the thoroughfare in James City County.
After lobbying by the Williamsburg-James City County school division, the Virginia Department of Transportation is going ahead with the installation of new school crossing signs and school zone markings around Lafayette High School and the Williamsburg Montessori School’s Longhill Road campus.
The new signs will provide drivers on Longhill Road with earlier notification that they are entering a school zone and to adjust their speeds accordingly.
VDOT’s recommendation came after a report by Kimley-Horn and Associates called for the new signs at both schools, along with the installation of transverse rumble strips — grooves cut into the road causing passing cars to vibrate — at Lafayette.
VDOT did not recommend the rumble strips.
WJCC Senior Director for Operations Marcellus Snipes said the school division had advocated for additional safety measures for Longhill Road for some time. While other major improvements to the road — including widening the road and adding turn lanes — in limbo, Snipes said the school division believed the smaller projects could be addressed quickly.
“The thing about Longhill Road is it’s a 45 mph road,” Snipes said. “When the school zone lights aren’t flashing, that means cars are driving by at 45 mph. But we have people entering and exiting Lafayette High School all day.”
Snipes said the major traffic safety concerns at Lafayette included cars entering and exiting the parking lot, which opens onto Longhill Road, pedestrians and students walking to the school, such as those who live in the Seasons Trace neighborhood, and security guards who stand in the street in the morning and afternoon to direct traffic.
Snipes also said the new signs would help drivers remember to take additional care when driving in front of the school.
While the school division also asked for the installation of the transvers rumble strips, Snipes said VDOT was hesitant to fund that part of the request.
James City County Senior Planner Ellen Cook said the projects would be paid for with state funding, and could be in place before the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.
While the safety upgrades are likely to be completed soon, the remaining improvements remains in the planning stages. A study released in September 2014 by Kimley-Horn projected the total cost of upgrading the road from Route 199 to Centerville Road at $88.39 million — a figure both the state and the county have been unwilling to cover.
In February, County Administrator Bryan Hill debuted a plan to use a VDOT program that would match local dollars in with state funding to spur the improvement of the road, but funds were not included in the county’s capital improvement plan, which allocates money for large-dollar construction projects.