The Culpeper Town Council at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon decided to have the townâ??s staff study another traffic pattern offered at the eleventh hour by Madison Grove resident Charles Malsz to eliminate or drastically curtail cut-through traffic that subdivision residents have claimed for years is a public safety issue.
Malsz asked the nine-member council give his proposal â??serious consideration.â?
Councilman Dave Lochridge liked the idea, if the town can get it to work.
â??It makes sense to me,â? said Lochridge. â??This is by far the most cost efficient.â?
On May 12, the council voted 5-4 to keep Burgandine Avenue open, but decided to hold a special meeting to discuss other traffic calming measures to slow down or greatly reduce cut-through traffic.
The council was to discuss a town report recommending the installation of an estimated $17,000 semi-diverter, which restricts traffic, at Burgandine Avenue and Montanus Drive.
The agenda was the same as last weekâ??s abbreviated meeting that was halted following an email from neighborhood organizer and leader Rick Fields, who leveled charges of tampering by Public Services Director Jim Hoy with the independent $32,000 traffic study conducted by Hurt and Proffitt, a Lynchburg engineering firm. Fields said Hoy was under investigation for tampering, which baffled Vice Mayor Billy Yowell.
Fields acknowledged a week later in an email that he was conducting the investigation based on a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request for several years of emails between Hoy and Hurt and Proffitt.
However, nothing was mentioned about the tampering allegation or investigation during the Wednesday meeting.
Malsz’s plan would prohibit right turns from Burgandine Avenue onto Ira Hoffman Lane. It also would eliminate the left turn arrow from Ira Hoffman Lane onto Burgandine Avenue except for emergency vehicles and buses. Motorists using Burgandine Avenue would either have to go straight onto Rocky Knoll or turn left onto Ira Hoffman Lane.
Malszâ??s plan also calls for remarking one traffic lane on Rocky Knoll, making it a left turn only instead of straight and left turn, as it is currently marked. The right lane already is marked for right turn only. This move, said Malsz, would eliminate traffic on Rocky Knoll from proceeding straight across Ira Hoffman Lane and onto Burgandine Avenue.
Malsz also recommends reducing the speed limit from 45 mph to 35 mph and extending the left turn lane on Ira Hoffman Lane that shares left turns onto Brandy Road at the traffic light and traffic entering Dominion Square Shopping Center.
Vehicles heading west on Ira Hoffman Lane would be able to use Burgandine Avenue through a right turn.
He said all these changes would help eliminate cut-through traffic.
â??(This) helps maintain the property values in Madison Grove,â? said Malsz. â??I donâ??t see a downside. The benefits are overwhelming.â?
Fields, the second speaker, said since the town council voted against the only option the residents really wanted to close Burgandine Avenue, alternative measures become more complicated. He said a semi-diverter was preferable to a one-way street, one of several proposals studied through the years.
Hoy said he had not seen Malszâ??s recommendation, but noted that staff had studied numerous options for that corridor.
â??Signage has to coincide with pavement markings,â? said Hoy.
Hoy also said that aluminum signs alone will not change human behavior. Enforcement is a key component of traffic changes.
â??We would have to have more police there,â? said Councilman Keith Price.
Malsz commended police for its continued enforcement efforts in the neighborhood.
Several officials after the meeting questioned privately about where the town would post the signs prohibiting left turns from Ira Hoffman Lane, which is a five lane road at its intersections with Rocky Knoll to the south and Burgandine Avenue to the north.
One lingering question raised by some of those town officials was would those projected changes make the intersection more dangerous than residents say it is now, with traffic making left turns or crossing a five-lane highway instead of being able to make a safer right turn?
Another issue surfaced when Hoy advised the council that a commercial development was planned behind K&M Lawn and Garden and between that business and Lowes that has requested an entrance onto Ira Hoffman Lane between Burgandine Avenue and Brandy Road, adding more traffic near the intersections.
The consensus of town council was to have staff, VDOT and the planning department study Malszâ??s proposal and bring back a recommendation to next monthâ??s Public Safety, Public Works and Community Development Committee.
Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org