Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Notice some traffic on Denbigh Boulevard? Here’s why there’s no widening project underway

A Google street view from August 2017 shows vehicles lined up at a stoplight at the intersection of Denbigh Boulevard and George Washington Memorial Highway in York County. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
A Google street view from August 2017 shows vehicles lined up at a stoplight at the intersection of Denbigh Boulevard and George Washington Memorial Highway in York County. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

Over time, the York County section of Denbigh Boulevard has popped up in various places on social media: the sheriff’s office page notifying drivers of crashes and road work, news pages reporting those crashes and more.

And, most recently, Denbigh Boulevard has been the subject of complaints about traffic congestion on Facebook groups.

Despite the online complaints, York County Deputy Planning Director Tim Cross said the county planning department has received very few complaints about that particular two-mile segment of road.

Running from Jefferson Avenue in Newport News to George Washington Memorial Highway in York County, Denbigh Boulevard reduces from four lanes to two lanes once drivers cross the boundary into York County.

“I’ve been here 30 years and it’s always been that way,” Cross said.

Denbigh Boulevard is a commuting corridor in the county.

A few years ago, York County’s Transportation Safety Commission sent a survey to residents asking where they thought road segment improvements could be made.

There were a couple responses suggesting improvements to Denbigh Boulevard, including extending a left turn lane at the George Washington Memorial Highway intersection and adding a left turn lane in front of Rip’s Food Store.

“Other than that, there really weren’t any comments on Denbigh Boulevard,” Cross said. “We just in general haven’t received many.”

While the county hasn’t received many complaints about Denbigh Boulevard congestion, that doesn’t mean a widening project hasn’t been considered.

Cross said a Denbigh Boulevard widening project was proposed a few years ago as a candidate for funding under the Virginia Department of Transportation Smart Scale program.

Most roads in York County are maintained by VDOT

Smart Scale ranks projects against each other based on their merits, including cost effectiveness and project efficiency.

Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board selects projects for funding, according to the Smart Scale website.

“Denbigh Boulevard didn’t make the cut,” Cross said, adding the project would likely need to be funded by Smart Scale — not a different source — to come to fruition. Smart Scale is the most common way to fund projects like a Denbigh Boulevard widening.

Denbigh Boulevard also isn’t in the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization’s 2040 Long Range Transportation plan, which identifies areas in need of improvement in the long-term, Cross said.

Despite some online complaints about congestion, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization ranks the Denbigh Boulevard as “low-to-moderate” traffic density during peak morning and evening travel hours, Cross said.

“If you really want to get Smart Scale funding, you really need to have a project in the region’s long range transportation plan,” Cross said.

Cross said Denbigh Boulevard is similar to how Fort Eustis Boulevard used to be set up: Four lanes in Newport News, and two in York County.

Fort Eustis was widened to four lanes in York County using federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Projects were selected to receive funding based on how quickly and easily they could be constructed.

Fort Eustis Boulevard already had VDOT-approved plans to widen the road, making the project a solid candidate for the funding.

Even if a Denbigh Boulevard project was eventually able to secure funding through Smart Scale, it could still be years before drivers see any changes.

The next round of Smart Scale funding will be allocated in about one year for projects six years in the future, Cross said.

“That’s even assuming we could get the project approved,” Cross said. “I think it’s safe to say, barring another economic stimulus package or something like that, it’s not like it would happen anytime soon.”

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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