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Raceway would be road boon, report says

RELATED: See complete coverage of the Dominion Raceway

UPDATE: This related document was submitted to VDOT Monday by Bowman Consulting Group.

BY JEFF BRANSCOME

The Thornburg interchange in Spotsylvania County needs a lot of work, even if the proposed Dominion Raceway is never built nearby.

Raceway supporters and opponents can agree on that. It’s even acknowledged in a traffic study commissioned by the proposed raceway’s developers.

But the report (read it here) takes a positive spin, saying the raceway would provide immediate transportation improvements at the interchange at Interstate 95 and Mudd Tavern Road.

“These improvements will mitigate existing and projected future deficiencies at the interchange that will occur without the Dominion Raceway, while also accommodating the project’s additional race event and commercial traffic,” says a report by Bowman Consulting in Richmond.

The 358-page traffic study was submitted to Spotsylvania’s planning department, along with the developer’s rezoning application, on Tuesday.

The Dominion Raceway is being proposed for 160 acres at the northeastern corner of the Thornburg exit off I–95. The project will need a Virginia Department of Transportation waiver because its entrance would be just 300 feet from the northbound ramp onto I–95, according to Bowman’s report.

Bowman Consulting project manager John Riley noted that the portion of Mudd Tavern Road that would pass the raceway carries just 1,900 vehicle trips per day. That’s the third lowest of any road next to an I–95 interchange in Virginia, he said.

“Honestly, the restricting factor in development is not our entrance or its proximity to the interchange as it is the interchange itself,” Riley said.

The raceway could operate without improvements to the Mudd Tavern Road bridge over I–95, but commercial components would be limited, he said.

RACEWAY OPPOSITION

Clay Huber, who lives  about three miles from the site of the proposed raceway, isn’t buying the study, which he calls “presumptuous.”

Raceway officials, he says, assume VDOT will replace the Mudd Tavern Road bridge over I–95.

VDOT’s long-term budget includes that $5.9 million project, but it isn’t scheduled to be completed until 2020—and that’s only if it receives funding.

Meanwhile, the developer hopes to open the raceway by spring 2014. Riley noted that the raceway project, in addition to being an economic catalyst, could spur the state to fund those bridge improvements.

Huber—who says he supports a raceway in Spotsylvania, just not at its proposed site—doesn’t think the state has enough money for bridge improvements. And he referred to the upgrades offered by the raceway as “minor road improvements.”

“It’s almost like they’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” he said of raceway officials. Huber is a member of The Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside, which was formed  in response to the raceway proposal.

 He also says he thinks the traffic study underestimated summer travel. The raceway’s peak season is from mid-February through October, and most events will be on Fridays and Saturdays, according to the application.

The traffic study says VDOT and Spotsylvania should collaborate with the Dominion Raceway for traffic improvements. It says the raceway—and its commercial components, such as a restaurant and gas station—would generate up to 11,700 trips between Monday and Friday, and up to 10,765 trips on Saturdays.

The study estimates that roughly 30 percent of those trips would already be part of the local traffic stream—not just folks coming to the raceway.

STUDY RECOMMENDATIONS

If built, the raceway would include an oval track for stock-car racing, a drag strip and a road course.

It also would have a large screen and a three-story entertainment complex that could be used year-round for festivals, concerts, drive-in movies and other events. Concerts would likely be the biggest draw, with the potential for up to 9,000 people per show.

The traffic study’s recommendations include:

A traffic signal at the intersection of Mudd Tavern Road and the I–95 northbound off-ramp. That spot currently has a stop sign. The raceway says it will pay for this improvement if the project is approved.

An additional turn lane on the I–95 northbound off-ramp to Mudd Tavern Road. The raceway has proffered a turn lane on the northbound or southbound off-ramp.

Reconstruction of the Mudd Tavern Road bridge to include left-turn lanes and traffic signals where the road intersects with I–95 ramps. VDOT plans to replace the bridge, which was built in 1964, and widen it from two lanes to three, allowing for dedicated turn lanes.

Reconstruction of the interchange to accommodate long-term traffic growth in Thornburg. An example would be a new interchange with a loop ramp for traffic heading from eastbound Mudd Tavern Road to northbound I–95.

The next step is for Spotsylvania’s planning department staff to look over the application and make recommendations to the county’s Planning Commission, which will schedule a public hearing on the matter.

Jeff Branscome:  540/374-5402

jbranscome@freelancestar.com

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