Zion Crossroads roundabout meeting

Trieu Nguyen, a Virginia Department of Transportation engineer, explains the planned Wares Crossroads roundabout to Betty Dickinson, Pat Willis and James Pfeiffer.

More than 60 citizens gave state road engineers their thoughts on the proposed roundabout at Wares Crossroads near Lake Anna at a public meeting on Monday.

The $5.4 million project is tentatively planned for completion in 2024. The Virginia Department of Transportation says a roundabout is the best way to improve the crash-plagued intersection at New Bridge Road (Rt. 208) and Zachary Taylor Highway (Rt. 522). 

“It’s long overdue,” Dick Shrum, a lake-area resident, said at the meeting. “Look at all the documents on VDOT’s website that demonstrate how safe roundabouts are.”

The agency’s engineers say roundabouts are superior because they nearly eliminate  the potential for head-on and high-speed right angle collisions. 

Not everyone is convinced. Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral district) made a point of criticizing VDOT’s decision to build a roundabout, rather than a traffic light, during his run for office in 2017. He said he still isn’t sure about it.

“A traditional four-way intersection is what everyone’s used to,” he said. “The property owners are concerned about access and they were willing to help with the cost of a traffic light.”

W.A. Dickinson, who operates Dickinson’s Store, and Charles Purcell, who owns commercial land with Dickinson behind the store, were among those questioning VDOT’s plans at the meeting. The roundabout would hinder access to the store for motorists traveling east on Rt. 208, though turn lanes would direct traffic to the business from Rt. 522.

Development pressure is also about to hit the west side of the intersection. A proposal was submitted to county officials on May 20 to rezone 125 acres on what will be the roundabout’s west side for commercial shops and services. Lonnie Carter, the applicant, suggested a variety of possible tenants, including a hotel, restaurants and an urgent care facility.

Carter said on Tuesday he is not concerned about fitting the roundabout into his plans. Owners of property adjoining the 125 acres were invited by mail to a neighborhood meeting about the rezoning on June 12 at the county office building. The Louisa County Planning Commission is expected to hold a public hearing on July 11.

The state spent $600,000 in federal funds in 2017 to add a right-turn lane for motorists turning from Rt. 522 onto Rt. 208. Many area residents thought that was a band-aid solution and pressed for more changes.

“It’s almost made it worse,” Steve Grill, who lives nearby, said of the right-turn lane. “The line of sight is still blocked. You’re not sure if someone’s going to make a right turn or not.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation concluded the existing traffic volume does not justify installing a light and proposed a roundabout instead. The project won funding from the state Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2017.

While many residents wanted more improvements, some are worried whether a roundabout is the right fit for the particular vehicle types that frequent the lake area. Besides summertime travelers in campers, Rt. 522 sees a fair amount of long-distance truck traffic.

“I think what a lot of people are concerned about is there’s a lot of people pulling boats, RVs and tractor trailers,” Shrum said. “Are people going to be able to do that without having an accident?”

He said the roundabout will improve safety by slowing traffic from the current speed limit of 45 miles per hour to as low as 10 mph.  

“It forces people to slow down and pay attention,” Justin Warfield, VDOT’s project manager, said at the meeting.

Russ Marshall, who owns property at the lake, said he supports the roundabout but contends that the current design is inadequate.

“To me, the scale is not big enough,” he said. “They need to move the whole thing south and create a crossroads [with Mansfield Road (Rt. 613)].”

Warfield said the $5.4 million in funding is not enough to develop a four-way intersection. Moreover, VDOT was concerned about avoiding two houses located nearby. 

VDOT engineers will hold a second meeting for residents in 2020 after they finalize the intersection design.

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