Norton council selects traffic project options for VDOT evaluation

Mike Still • Feb 5, 2020 at 6:00 PM

NORTON — Norton City Council has taken the second step in a process to get state funds to rework traffic issues along Park Avenue and U.S. Highway 58.

The council voted unanimously to submit a request to the Virginia Department of Transportation for preliminary estimates on two projects for traffic and pedestrian safety.

City Manager Fred Ramey said the first step — a January VDOT informational open house — drew about 30 members of the public to look at various proposals for vehicle and pedestrian traffic improvements along downtown Park Avenue and U.S. 58 in the eastern city limits.

Ramey said options that open house attendees rated included:

— Variations on a “road diet” that would change Park Avenue from four to two lanes with a central turn lane

— Overall traffic signal hardware and software upgrades

— Traffic lane and signal changes in the Tipple Hill area where Park Avenue meets U.S. 58 at the eastern end of the city

— Modification of an exit from the Virginia-Kentucky Regional Shopping Center to right-turn-only access to U.S. 58

— Stoplight warning signs leading from the east and west approaches to the Hawthorne Drive intersection with U.S. 58

— Modifications to the Park Avenue intersections with 12th, 13th and 14th streets to accommodate heavier traffic patterns

— Improvements to an 11th Street sidewalk between Park and Kentucky avenues as part of a future link to the city’s planned visitors center and existing hiking trail network

Council members agreed that a downtown “road diet” project could cause problems with traffic stoppages, since some Park Avenue businesses get truck deliveries blocking one lane of traffic. Council also agreed that option could also mean a milled and resurfaced Park Avenue that could later be changed back to a four-lane downtown if fewer lanes did not work for the city.

The council approved Ramey’s recommendation to submit two preliminary project applications to VDOT for consideration under the agency’s Smart Scale project evaluation process.

The first option would include traffic signal upgrades, the Hawthorne/U.S. 58 signal warning signs and the shopping center exit right-turn limit.

Option two would include the 12th/13th/14th streets intersection upgrades, Tipple Hill lane and signal changes and the 11th Street sidewalk upgrade.

Ramey said VDOT project funding under the Smart Scale comes in two-year cycles, and submitting the projects will allow VDOT to do detailed review and cost estimates to determine whether state funding can cover one or both applications.