By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors approved an upcoming study provided by AECOM, a consulting firm, to provide a study of a section of the Route 220 corridor from Route 460/Alternate 220 intersection to International Parkway.
Botetourt County Assistant Administrator Jon Lanford provided the board with an overview of a proposed scope and fee for assessment/analysis of transportation options along US 220 from I-81, Exit 150 North to Catawba Road (Route 779), as discussed during the July 31 board meeting.
Last month, Lanford spoke about the county acquiring the services of AECOM to assist the county in this study. In the scope of studies found in the agenda packet, Lanford explained that prior work by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) included a recently completed study through VDOT’s Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment (OIPI) that resulted in several recommendations in the corridor between Route 11 and Commons Parkway. Prior to that, VDOT completed a study that resulted in a “superstreet” concept between Commons Parkway and Catawba Road (Route 779). That concept was used to make application for both Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds and Smart Scale funds. Success was achieved through STBG but not Smart Scale and the project has not moved forward.
During his presentation, Lanford went over some of the history of the area and the studies previously conducted. He noted studies around Tinker Mountain Road, the Botetourt Commons, the exit ramps, the park and ride off of Exit 150, and accommodations around the Appalachian Trail.
The scope of study went on to say that the scope of their work is intended to further develop and consider transportation options along Route 220 and will focus only that portion of the corridor from the I-81 interchange north to Catawba Road. The county indicated a desire for other potential land use changes and development growth beyond what may have been considered within the time frames for the two previous corridor studies. These growth opportunities may include revisions to the street network parallel to and/or connecting to the Route 220 corridor.
Lanford explained what AECOM’s role will be in this study that includes a review of the land use, generating new vehicle trips based on agreed upon land uses, determining the distribution of potential new vehicle trips within the study area, considering new surface street alternatives, performing traffic analysis, evaluating proposed transportation solutions, and preparing a summary and recommendations. The fee for the study of this initial segment totals $96,900. Lanford believes there is an opportunity to fund this by way of one-time revenues from timber sales from the landfill.
“Some of the challenges look at the conditions in their current state and projects improvements needed not to meet conditions 15 or 20 years from now, but the traffic conditions around an area with the land use that exists today, and we’re well aware that land use around exit 150 is changing dramatically,” Lanford added. “So, in effort to be forward-thinking and try to come up with projects that meet our transportation needs in the future with land use changes there we would recommend the engagement with AECOM,” Lanford added.
Amsterdam District Supervisor Steve Clinton applauded the need and goal of the study, but wasn’t sure what would happen following the study. He noted that he wants the study to be “part of (the board’s) daily conversation,” to promote it with the regional commission and VDOT, and doesn’t want the study to end up as a “grandiose plan collecting dust.” Clinton wants to push the study and keep it at the forefront of future discussions.
Lanford explained that he thought this document couldn’t make a determination on future land use cases, but could take into account what future cases could look like.
Chairman Mac Scothorn asked Lanford if the study could potentially make a market difference in applications for Smart Scale and an STBG. Lanford thought that “it could” and has “value” in determining future projects. He noted that some capital could be put into future projects to help them score better.
County Administrator Gary Larrowe noted the county has continually tried to gets studies done from Bonsack to International Parkway. Although “bits and pieces” of studies have taken place since 2016, VDOT doesn’t have the “entire picture.” Larrowe feels this study will provide the county with helpful information.
“I know that, in reality, we hear about traffic in Daleville,” Larrowe explained. “In the phase of development, I think we’re [the county] at a point where we probably need to have something [a study] outside of VDOT to be able to reflect to VDOT what needs to end up taking place. They’re going to end up being more reactive and that’s what happens over time. This [study] would end up being more of a proactive approach about trying to get some development taking place along that corridor with traffic is what the idea is, I think.”
Larrowe mentioned that he believes this type of study would end up helping Botetourt and VDOT in future planning. He noted other localities who have benefited from similar studies provided by consulting firms.
Buchanan District Supervisor Amy White asked Lanford about the longevity of this upcoming study. The assistant administrator wasn’t able to answer her question specifically, but explained the county’s award-winning work on their land use planning around Exit 150 and this study could be “wedded together” to improve the document’s shelf life.
“The one word I find missing in all this is ‘safety,’” White added. “We hear so much about safety, especially along that roadway. If we do proceed with a study of this magnitude, I think that we should certainly have some attention to safe solutions for transportation.”
Scothorn noted difficulty some drivers face when coming onto or crossing 220 and wanted safety issues involved into the study that include Read Mountain Road and all corridors off of 220 in Botetourt. He added, “We’re looking at proactivity within our county; we’re looking at VDOT for reactivity. So, hopefully we can push that as much as we can. If this (study) gives us a boost, I’m all for it.”
Fincastle District Supervisor Dick Bailey asked about the last study done on this section of the corridor. Larrowe noted there hasn’t been a “comprehensive” study, which is why the proposal was made to better their chances at scoring higher in future projects.
The county is currently working to set a time and date for a kickoff meeting where the schedule of the study will be finalized, according to a county official.
More information can be found in the board’s August meeting agenda packet found at www.botetourtva.gov/AgendaCenter.