Cathy Dyson writes about King George County.
2 supervisors miss meeting; Route 206 project debated again
There were several empty chairs in the King George Board of Supervisors board room tonight. Absent from the meeting were Supervisors Dale Sisson Jr., who’s away on travel, and Joe Grzeika, who’s out of town, said Chairman Cedell Brooks Jr.
Also missing was a student representative from King George High School, which meant there were three empty chairs at the front of the board room.
The meeting was held two days after a Free Lance-Star story was published about problems caused by what Supervisors Ruby Brabo and John LoBuglio called “unilateral decisions” being made by fellow supervisor Grzeika. The story cited two examples: Grzeika’s decision for King George not to be included in a regional energy program and his postponement of a land-use study at the Navy base at Dahlgren.
No mention was made of the unilateral decisions on Tuesday night. Grzeika has not spoken publicly about the matter.
The biggest item on the agenda tonight was the ongoing discussion of improvements to the intersection of State Route 206 and Owens Road. Ruby Brabo read a three-page report chronicling the research she had done to determine the history of the project proposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation. She had asked Northern Neck Residency Engineer David Brown for a history, which he said he couldn’t provide because of the lack of continuity in his office over the years.
So, she had county staff research board packets and meeting minutes to come up with a chronology.
Brabo wanted to try to figure out how “the design being pursued in 2012 became such a monstrosity other than someone decided they needed to spend more money so they didn’t have to give it back.”
Brown, who attend the supevisors’ meeting, said VDOT officials continue to look at modifications of the project, which would cost $4.1 million and add left- and right-turn lanes on Route 206. Officials are trying to scale back the turn lanes so less property is affected. He also said his office had suspended acquiring right-of-ways for the project. He’d like to meet with the Board of Supervisors again in November to update them.
Here’s the chronology Brabo presented:
The recurring question I have been asked repeatedly by concerned residents has been, “How did we arrive at this point with this project that appears to address none of the safety concerns?” I invested the necessary time to answer that question tonight.
The KG Board of Supervisors passed a resolution on February 20, 2002 requesting VDOT review RT. 206 “for the purpose of recommending solutions to the excessive usage, speed and roadway conditions
that present a safety hazard to the residents of King George County and also the occupants of vehicles using that roadway.” Recognizing the Board requested VDOT address the entirety of Dahlgren Road, I am not sure how we arrived at a project that focuses on the Dahlgren/Owens intersection when according to accident data from 2002-2012, the Indiantown/Dahlgren intersection has a 34% higher accident ratio.
A letter from VDOT dated August 4, 2004 states “This traffic signal investigation was conducted in response to a request from a King George County Board of Supervisors Member.” The 5 year accident history (1999-2002) referenced 47% of the accidents were angular and less than 12% were rear end collisions. Stated warrants were not met for a traffic signal, but recommended left turn lanes. The County Administrator responded with a letter dated August 23, 2004 stating “The Board of Supervisors has raised concerns about this traffic safety issue…and wants to explore all avenues to alleviate this problem.” No response was received from VDOT so an e-mail was sent on November 2, 2004 requesting response. In an e-mail response the same day, Kenneth Shirley states, “It has been scoped, ENV permits acquired and surveying begun.” So much for the requested discussion between the Board and VDOT. The response goes on to state, “…we may be able to construct the signals by next winter with the traffic heads being
moved into permanent position upon completion of roadway construction to include left and right turn lanes.”
An inquiry by me a few weeks ago to Mr. Brown at VDOT for any history related to the project produced an answer that VDOT is not very good about continuity with regards to history and communications related to projects and that my search would best be served by requesting information from the County Administrator. According to County records, there was no further communication between the County and VDOT until June 17, 2010. The plans provided with this communication are the same plans used
during the 2011 public hearing process, but are not the plans that were being pursued as the project began its property acquisition phase in 2012. Nowhere in this communication was it noted by VDOT that construction of a signal was not included.
Contained within the public hearing package was the following statement under Project Description: “The primary purpose of this project is to improve traffic flow by constructing left and right turn lanes from Route 206 (Dahlgren Road) onto Route 218 (Windsor Drive) and Route 624
(Owens Drive).” This seems to be contradictory to the primary goal of the King George County Board of Supervisors who have safety as their primary goal stated in the resolution.
Also noted in the public hearing package under Right of Way: “There will be no residential displacements, and no businesses, farms, or non-profit organizations displaced as a result of this project.” And yet, the 2012 design impacts on Gautier’s and Burgess’s businesses have detrimental impacts that could potentially cause them to become displaced. Duly noted on the sign in sheet from the public hearing is the signature of Mr. & Mrs. Hoback who were in attendance. Upon review of the plans, there was no impact to their property so they left the meeting only to receive in the mail in 2012 a proposal for acquisition of their property. How is this fair? Mr. & Mrs. oback were not the only ones surprised by a sudden proposal for acquisition of land as the King George County Board of Supervisors were just as taken aback by the letter they received on May 11, 2012 with a proposal to purchase their property which was now going to be impacted by this new design.
Mrs. Shropshire’s response to the public hearing was to “recommend approval of the project as presented at the public hearing” with a slight modification. A letter dated May 5, 2011 from Mr. Brown to Mrs. Shropshire states, “The residency supports the project with the revised alignment….modification suggested at the public hearing.” So how did the design being pursued in 2012 become such a monstrosity other than someone decided they needed to spend more money so they didn’t have to give it back.
2002-2012 accident data still reflects majority of the accidents at this intersection are angular. During this 7 year period, 9% are rear end collisions and still over 40% are angular. Interesting to note in an e-
mail dated March 30, 2012 from Jason Williams with VDOT to Scott Mersiowsky with VDOT includes the current 3 year accident data from the intersection showing almost 79% of the accidents for that time frame were angular.
April 13, 2012 the King George Board of Supervisors send a letter requesting VDOT attend the May 15th meeting to discuss their concerns related to “the cost of the project, the large amounts of land proposed to be acquired…,the impacts to residents and businesses during construction of the project and the permanent impacts to residents and businesses upon completion of construction.” VDOT representatives attended the meeting and Mr. Northridge assured the board at the meeting in May that the design plans would allow traffic to comfortably flow through the intersection at 55 mph.
Again reinforcing the statement from the public hearing packet stating, “The primary purpose of this project is to improve traffic flow…”. It seems VDOT along the way lost sight of the mission which was to recommend solutions to improve safety for the residents of this county. VDOT was questioned by the
board as to how it could be proper for them to present one set of plans at the public hearing and then for them to be pursuing something so vastly different. VDOT was questioned as to what happened to consideration of the traffic signal. VDOT had no answer for the change in plans and simply stated the previous traffic study completed did not warrant a signal. Feeling their concerns were not being heard nor addressed the board requested a work session in July with project manager Mrs. Shropshire.
At this meeting Mrs. Shropshire stated majority of the accidents were rear end collisions and this design with both right and left turn lanes would address this. I corrected her and pointed out that actually majority were angular and now the residents would have more lanes to traverse at an intersection with an increased speed potential by 15 mph without providing a traffic light. Mrs. Shropshire said the design met VDOT standards. As the board offered various comments and suggestions, VDOT continued
to respond that the design was to VDOT’s standards. When questioned regarding the fairness of changing the design from the public hearing in such a manner that it now impacted additional properties who did not have the opportunity to comment, there was no response.
Recognizing that the meeting with Mrs. Shropshire was not productive the Board sent a letter dated July 19, 2012 to Mr. Chord Sterling, our county’s representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, requesting a 90 day halt to the project to prevent any further expenditures on this project in order for time to be permitted for the Board to have productive discussions with VDOT and the CTB.
On August 20, 2012 the Board received a response from Mr. Brown stating Mr. Sterling had requested he contact the Board regarding conversations Mr. Sterling had “with some of the County Board of Supervisors.” Mr. Brown goes on to state, “As requested, VDOT is evaluating further modifications and associated right of way/easement acquisitions to address the Board of Supervisors concerns regarding impacts on properties adjacent to the project.” He further states that work will be completed by November and VDOT will meet with the Board again at that time. The request made by this Board was to halt the project to prevent further expenditures and allow for discussion. There was no request from this Board for further evaluation and modifications as this Board did not wish to see continued expenditure of funds, but rather wanted a dialogue to reach an agreed upon solution.
On August 28, 2012 the Board received a letter from Mr. Sterling stating he had “spoken with several members of the King George Board of Supervisors” and that he had “asked VDOT to do everything possible to minimize the impact…on surrounding property owners.” He closes with “I have a responsibility to do everything I can with the limited financial resources available to make our roads safer for Virginia drivers.” I would like for Mr. Sterling to realize that this Board is fulfilling its responsibility to ensure that this intersection is made safer and not more dangerous and I suggest
he live up to his claims by listening to concerns raised by this Board rather than listening to side bar conversations.
While attending last week’s conference, I met Mr. Allen Louderback the at-large rural representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board. He was unaware of our request for a 90 day halt of the project nor was he aware of any concerns having been raised by this Board. He invited me to attend the next meeting of the CTB this Wednesday in Winchester to bring forward the request by this Board for a 90 day halt to the project and to ask that the Board’s concerns regarding safety for our residents be addressed.
Margaret Johnson of 15435 Owens spoke to me two weeks ago via telephone. She wanted to know how many people does VDOT intend to have killed at that intersection???