VDOT Offers Light at Cape Charles Food Lion

By Stefanie Jackson — A last-minute change was made to Northampton supervisors’ agenda for their Oct. 9 meeting to accommodate a surprise visitor, Virginia Department of Transportation Accomac Residency Administrator Chris Isdell.

After VDOT’s safety improvement plan for Route 13 by the Cape Charles Food Lion was carefully reviewed and an additional traffic study was conducted, Isdell was able to offer supervisors three new options, including the installation of a traffic light at the intersection of Route 13 and Country Place at the shopping center’s busy south entrance.

A VDOT public hearing held in July had garnered much criticism from Cape Charles area residents. VDOT’s original proposal mainly consisted of widening and lengthening turn lanes, but it made no provisions for safety at the dangerous intersection where there have been many accidents and close calls, residents said.

Previously, when supervisors requested adding a traffic signal to the safety improvement plan, Isdell cautioned them that it might drive up costs too high for the project to qualify for VDOT’s Smart Scale program.

Furthermore, the county did not request a traffic signal on the original Smart Scale application it submitted in 2016, and if the application was amended, there was no guarantee it would be approved a second time, Isdell had told supervisors in August.

But this time, Isdell seemed confident that the traffic signal is a favorable option.

The project’s “scope would have to be re-evaluated to make sure that the funding that is currently there will work, and by doing so, it has the potential to trigger a rescore of the project,” Isdell said.

“However,” he continued, “we feel like the project is a strong project and may score as well” as previously.

All three options for amending the safety improvement plan are: closing the intersection to all traffic except vehicles making left turns; converting the intersection to an RCUT or J-turn intersection, achieving the same outcome as the first option but enabling vehicles to make U-turns; or installing a traffic signal preceded by warning beacons and rumble strips.

The new traffic signal would be near the existing traffic signal at the intersection of Route 13 and Stone Road, leading into the town of Cape Charles. Isdell said the traffic lights would be timed similarly to the series of traffic lights seen on Route 13 in Exmore, Onley, and Oak Hall.

According to Isdell, at least two turn lanes would still be widened and/or lengthened on the stretch of road less than half a mile long, including the turn lane leading to Cape Charles. The original safety improvement plan included widening and lengthening eight turn lanes, which some citizens deemed unnecessary.

But the project would not include a speed reduction from 55 mph to 45 mph, as occurs in most other towns in Northampton and Accomack counties where there are multiple traffic signals close together.

“That may be something to look at later, but this is definitely progress,” Chairman Spencer Murray said.

Isdell agreed and said the traffic signal would be taken into consideration when the next speed study is done.

Supervisor David Fauber asked everyone to recognize former supervisor Granville Hogg, who was in the audience, for all his hard work on the project. Hogg advocated for road safety improvements at the Cape Charles area shopping center both as a county supervisor and, after his term ended, as a concerned citizen.

Supervisor John Coker said, “Granville deserves all the credit for this. He’s been working on this for over a decade.”

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