Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Attention drivers: A new traffic light is set to turn on near James Blair Middle School this week

New traffic lights flash yellow on Ironbound Road. The intersection lights are expected to be fully operational before school starts at the new James Blair Middle School on Tuesday, Sept. 4. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
New traffic lights flash yellow on Ironbound Road. The intersection lights are expected to be fully operational before school starts at the new James Blair Middle School on Tuesday, Sept. 4. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

For several months, the intersection of Longhill and Ironbound roads in Williamsburg has been buzzing with the activity of construction workers and heavy equipment. 

But over the next few days, drivers can expect the intersection near the new James Blair Middle School to start clearing up.

New lanes on Longhill Road will be painted before the start of school Tuesday (Sept. 4), Williamsburg City Engineer Aaron Small said. The traffic lights, which were recently hung at the intersection, are also expected to be fully operational by Friday.

“That’s why the lights have been flashing for a week — it’s to let people know it’s coming,” Small said.

Small added that the project, which totals about $3 million, is on budget and on time. The project was funded by about $1 million in city funds, with the rest was covered by federal grants for projects in urban areas and Virginia’s revenue sharing program.

A little history

Williamsburg took the lead on the project because Ironbound and Longill roads, as well as part of Richmond Road, are city-owned and maintained.

A design map for the Longhill-Ironbound Road intersection project shows changes contractors have made to the area. The map is slightly different than final design plans. The right turn lane along the CVS Pharmacy side of Ironbound Road actually will extend all the way from Richmond Road and not taper in mid-way, as shown on the map. The median in front of the school board offices is also not nearly as big as shown on the map. (WYDaily/Courtesy Aaron Small)
A design map for the intersection of Longhill and Ironbound roads shows changes contractors have made to the area. The map is slightly different than final design plans. The right-turn lane along the CVS Pharmacy side of Ironbound Road actually will extend all the way from Richmond Road and not taper in, as shown on the map. The median in front of the School Board offices is also not nearly as big as shown on the map. (WYDaily/Courtesy Aaron Small)

Discussions on updating the roads around James Blair began about 10 years ago when the Shops at High Street development began to generate traffic. When James Blair closed in 2010, it alleviated traffic and allowed the project to wait several more years.

The project predates the closure of the old James Blair school, but finishing it in time for the start of this school year was a priority, Small said.

“It was all a timing thing,” Small said.

Development, such as the Aldi and Discount Tire stores, also pushed the project forward. A Popeyes fast food restaurant is also slated for construction nearby.

What you’ll see moving forward

While the biggest changes — painting the new lanes and turning on traffic signals — are set to be completed before buses start rolling through the area on Tuesday, the contractor’s deadline to complete the project is Nov. 30.

Drivers can expect to see some additional work at the intersection in upcoming months, Small said.

“It will look like we’re not doing anything for a little while,” he said. “We’ll be completing the rest of the curb and gutter, and the rest of the sidewalks.”

After school starts, contractors will build a new lane on the side of Ironbound Road closest to the CVS Pharmacy. The lane will run from Richmond Road to Longhill Road and increase the road width in that direction to three lanes.

The traffic lights are also hung from temporary wooden poles, which will eventually be switched with steel mast arms that have been special-ordered. Crews will erect street lights with LED bulbs as well.

And for drivers who are concerned about backed-up traffic from the new light, the city also has a plan.

After adding lanes, the intersection of Longhill and Ironbound roads is about 100 feet further away from Richmond Road than it used to be, Small said. That additional space will allow more cars to fit in that small section of Ironbound Road.

The new traffic light and existing one on Richmond Road will also be synced to help vehicles get through the area quickly.

Drivers may see an occasional backup, Small said, but officials believe the new lights and lanes will help traffic move smoothly.

The next phase of the project, which includes a double-left turn lane from Ironbound Road onto Richmond Road, and another lane on Ironbound Road stretching down to Plumeri Park, may take about four years to begin construction, Small said.


Sarah Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.

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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