Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Improving traffic focus of Skiffes Creek Connector citizens forum

A rendering of the Skiffes Creek Connector project from the VDOT website shows one proposed path of the bridge in blue. (Courtesy James City County SmartScale grant application)
A rendering of the Skiffes Creek Connector project from the VDOT website shows one proposed path of the bridge in blue. (Courtesy James City County SmartScale grant application)

As James City County and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) work to improve traffic conditions in James City County, a $50.5 million project is back at the forefront of public discussions.

On Nov. 9, VDOT will host a public information forum on the Skiffes Creek Connector Location Study, which looks at the environmental impact of a bridge designed to connect Routes 60 and 143, according to VDOT spokeswoman Brittany McBride.

Slated for construction in 2022, the Skiffes Creek Connector is designed to alleviate traffic congestion and improve navigation through James City County near Busch Gardens and Newport News, according to James City County Administrator Bryan Hill.

During the open-house style forum on Nov. 9, residents can ask questions about the project, get updates on the location study and give project feedback, according to a James City County news release.

The connector location study analyzes an area south of Interstate 64 from Exits 243 to 247, between Route 60 and Route 143 — where the connector is proposed to be built, the county release said.

The study aims to provide “improved local connectivity” and access for local traffic and “redirect inappropriate traffic away from communities and interstate facilities,” McBride said.

The study is expected to finish by summer 2018, McBride said.

The road is designed to redirect industrial traffic away from James River Elementary School, remove traffic from the Lee Hall area of Newport News and allow easier access to Fort Eustis, according to an online VDOT project page.

Hill said industrial traffic is one of the main issues in the proposed area. Trucks travel on Route 60 frequently from the Wal-Mart distribution center, Anheuser-Busch, the James River Commerce Center and Ball Metal Beverage Container Corp., clogging up the flow of traffic.

“If we can move them off the streets in residential areas and onto bigger roads, that’s what we want,” Hill said.

Although the Federal Highway Administration and VDOT started paying for the project in 1994, it hasn’t been fully funded until recently.

The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization approved a final $14 million federal grant for the project in September 2016, leaving just $1.6 million for James City County to pay from their budget.

Commuters travel on Longhill Road, one roadway that James City County planners hope to widen in the coming years.

Now, the $50.5 million project is fully funded, Hill said.

Hill said the county is still on schedule to begin construction of the connector in 2022, but is also looking for ways to expedite the process and begin the project sooner.

Starting the project sooner would require identifying other financial resources, he added.

The connector is still expected to be a single-lane roadway, with one lane traveling in each direction. Making the connector into a two-lane road could cost thousands more, Planning Director Paul Holt said.

McBride confirmed that, while the road project shares a similar name to Dominion’s Surry-Skiffes Creek Connector power line project, they are not related.

The public forum will be held from 5-7 p.m. at James River Elementary School, located at 8901 Pocahontas Trail.

Residents can also submit written comments by Nov. 19 to Scott Smizik, VDOT project manager, at 1401 E. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219. Comments can also be emailed to Scott.Smizik@VDOT.Virginia.gov, reference “Skiffes Creek Connector Study” in the subject heading.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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