Sunday, August 3, 2014

Gloucester, VA Ernest Lane Gate?, (Part 2)

Above is a picture looking south on route 17 with Ernest Lane to the right of Turlington Septic Service Sign and the stop sign.

In this picture, we have Ernest Lane at it's very front beginning.  Where the shadow shows up in the picture above along the road, this is where blacktopping ends and the road becomes gravel.  To the right is Turlington Septic Service.

When we went to Ernest Lane to look around, we counted that Turlington has 6 commercial trucks in their yard.  This will become important as we go along.

A better view of the trucks at Turlington.

This is a view looking East on Ernest Lane.  Gives you an idea of the type of road that is being discussed.  This is not a blacktopped road.  It is a state maintained road however.  Now let's look at the VDOT Rural Rustic Road project that is up for vote this coming Tuesday night before the Board of Supervisors.



The Rural Rustic Road concept, first enacted by the 2002 Session of the General Assembly of Virginia, is a practical approach to paving Virginia's low volume unpaved roads. A pilot program, implemented in July 2002, demonstrated the success of this concept. It ensures that VDOT practices environmental and financial stewardship while providing basic paved access to more of Virginia’s rural countryside. The 2003 Session of the General Assembly amended the legislation to provide that this method be considered as a first alternative for improving all unpaved roads in the future. The Rural Rustic Road Program, under § 33.1-70.1 of the Code of Virginia, became effective July 1, 2003. The Virginia Department of Transportation’s Local 
Assistance Division working with the Rural Rustic Road Policy Committee established the initial 
guidelines for this program.

The Local Assistance Division, in consultation with the Location and Design Division, has periodically updated the guidelines to reflect legislative revisions to the program. During the 2006 Session, and again during the 2008 Session, the General Assembly expanded the program by increasing the maximum traffic count on eligible roads from the initial 500 vehicles per day (VPD) to the current 1,500 VPD. In addition, during its 2008 Session, the General Assembly established that the maximum speed limit for a road designated as a Rural Rustic Road, on or after July, 1 2008, is 35 MPH. The Commissioner of Highways is authorized under § 46.2-878 of the Code of Virginia to increase, or decrease, this speed limit based on an engineering study.

The 2011 General Assembly Session amended the legislation to provide additional flexibility 
regarding Virginia Storm water Management Program regulations for Rural Rustic Road projects that meet certain criteria. This legislation provided that Rural Rustic Road projects placing a hard surface along the same basic alignment as the prior gravel impervious area with accompanying shoulder and drainage work are treated as routine maintenance activities for the purpose of VSMP regulations. This revision of the Rural Rustic Road Program Manual incorporates all prior legislative changes and provides additional clarifications.

Rural Rustic Road Concept

Fundamentally, the Rural Rustic Road concept is the paving of an existing unpaved road with a 
compacted or impervious surface and reestablishment of existing associated ditches and shoulders, and usually the new hard-surfaced road is on the same horizontal and vertical alignment as the prior gravel impervious area. Furthermore, a focal point of the program is on leaving trees, vegetation, side slopes, and open drainage abutting the roadway, undisturbed to the maximum extent possible.

Improvements along a Rural Rustic Road project may be less than minimum design standards, as outlined in the Chief Engineer’s Memorandum dated June 11, 2002, Appendix V. AASHTO’s Guidelines for Geometric Design of Very Low-Volume Local Roads (ADT ≤400) may be used as  a guide for roads with current traffic volumes up to 400 VPD. For roads with traffic volumes between 400 and 1,500 VPD, an 18-foot paved surface with 2-foot shoulders is desirable, but not required. The District Location and Design Engineer will be consulted for the higher volume roads (over 400 VPD).

The ideal Rural Rustic Road project usually involves reshaping of the roadbed, cleaning ditches and applying a hard surface within existing right of way. In most cases, it is assumed there are no actual construction plans and therefore, few occasions when a Rural Rustic Road project would require an engineered solution. The Rural Rustic Road concept may still be used to address more significant needed improvements if deemed appropriate. However, improvements beyond those required to address specific safety issues should be weighed against their probable cost. In lieu of more costly improvements, consideration should be given to the use of appropriate warning signs as needed recognizing the program goals of minimal disturbance and providing hard surfacing at the lowest possible cost. Typical examples of when engineered solutions may be required on rural rustic roads are when alignment improvements are needed to address identified safety issues, or improvements are needed to address severe drainage and/or erosion issues. Engineered solutions should be noted on the Scoping Report
 (Appendix II)

 and will usually trigger additional requirements typical of traditional construction projects such as the requirement to have plans signed and sealed by a Professional Engineer in accordance with the 
Department’s IIM-LD-243, as well as those requirements further detailed under the 
Environmental and Hydraulic Requirements.

Program Eligibility Criteria

The following criteria are those by which a candidate road is evaluated to determine its eligibility for hard-surfacing under the Rural Rustic Road Program. The road:

Must be an unpaved road already within the State Secondary System.

* Must carry no more than 1,500 VPD.

* Must be a priority (line item) in the locality’s approved Secondary Six-Year Plan (SSYP) 
if the funding source is from secondary system allocations. If secondary system 
allocations are not used, the project is not required to be in the SSYP. However, the 
applicable provisions for public involvement must be met.

* Must be used predominately for local traffic. The local nature of the road means that most 
motorists using the road have traveled it before and are familiar with its features.

* Must have minimal anticipated traffic growth. The County Board of Supervisors will 
endeavor to limit growth on roads improved under the Rural Rustic Road Program, and 
cooperate with VDOT through its comprehensive planning process to develop adjacent 
lands consistent with rural rustic road concepts.

In addition, the Board of Supervisors, by resolution, must designate the road as a Rural Rustic Road.

Planning and Approval Process

The Local VDOT Manager, as described herein, is the Department’s local liaison responsible for dealing with a County’s Board of Supervisors regarding Rural Rustic Roads. This is typically the Residency Administrator, unless otherwise designated by the 
District Administrator.

A candidate project is initiated when the Board of Supervisors requests the Local VDOT Manager to evaluate a section of road for the Rural Rustic Road Program or when the Local VDOT Manager reviews a new proposed unpaved road project in the locality’s approved SSYP for eligibility as a Rural Rustic Road project. The comparison of unpaved road improvement options is Appendix VI of this manual.

The Local VDOT Manager will consult with other technical experts as deemed appropriate to evaluate the roadway.

Following evaluation, the Local VDOT Manager advises the Board of Supervisors whether the unpaved road can be hard-surfaced through the Rural Rustic Road Program. If the road is not eligible, the Board of Supervisors may appeal the decision through the Local VDOT Manager to the District Administrator, and ultimately the Chief Engineer 
for consideration by the Commissioner of Highways.

The Board of Supervisors, by resolution, designates the road as a Rural Rustic Road. A sample resolution is Appendix III of this manual.

The Local VDOT Manager notifies the District Administrator and the Regional Operations Director that the road has been designated as a Rural Rustic Road. The Regional Operations Director may conduct a traffic engineering study to evaluate the road for a posted speed limit, or post the road at the 35 MPH maximum established in §46.2-873.2 of the Code of Virginia.

The Project Manager/Local VDOT Manager conducts a scoping meeting, as appropriate, and completes the Rural Rustic Road Program Project Scoping Report (Appendix II). An exemption has been provided for this program to utilize this scoping report instead of the traditional scoping report (PM-100).

Now let's go back and once again look at what is already planned for this rural rustic road that comes from Bedford Falls subdivision.

Now again we see from Maps that are on the Gloucester County Government website, Bedford Falls has already stated they plan on putting in a road between themselves and Ernest Lane which is going to significantly increase traffic along Ernest Lane.  But it appears they are waiting to put that road in after Ernest Lane is paved by VDOT at the expense of the taxpayers.  So can it still be argued that these are just plans and that they are subject to change?  Well the argument can be made, but we went to Bedford Falls and took pictures there are well.  Here is what we found.

This is a view down Shyan Way.  Just to the right of the white truck is a sign that shows the names of the roads, both under construction and planned.  Let's take a close up look at that sign.

Well there is the sign for Songbird Path.  So it would seem if the argument were to be brought up that it was only something in the planning stages and subject to being scrapped, the argument is no longer valid as the sign is already in place to put that road between Bedford Falls and Ernest Lane.

Let's look at some other issues here as well.

The picture above is from Google Maps and is a view covering Providence Road to Ernest Lane.  Providence is at the bottom while Ernest is towards the top.  Why is this important?  It shows that there is no North Bound traffic entrance directly to Ernest Lane.  If you are traveling North on route 17 from coming across the bridge, you have one of two options to get to your home in Bedford Falls at the moment.  One is to turn left onto Providence Road and drive through some side road neighborhoods before you can get to yours, or you have to travel to Ernest Lane, make a U Turn and turn into Lakeview Drive to get to Bedford Falls.

  Neither one is a great option at the moment.

In the Google map above, at the bottom left of the two roads is Lakeview Drive, at the moment the main way into Seawell's Trace and Bedford Falls, and the upper road is Ernest Lane.  You can not turn left off of route 17 North bound on to Lakeview Drive.  You can turn left on to Ernest Lane however from route 17 North bound.  However, at present, you can not enter Bedford Falls from Ernest Lane.

Now for some other issues.

This is an up close view of Ernest Lane from Route 17.  Now traveling on 17 north bound, there is a turn off lane so that drives are not blocking traffic along 17.  What is lacking here are a number of other issues that must be taken into consideration before Songbird Lane can become a main feed into Bedford Falls and Seawell's Trace stemming from Ernest Lane.  

  First, coming off of Ernest Lane, one can not easily turn left to travel north on route 17.  A light needs to be installed for that.  Also, there is no turn off lane from 17 south onto Ernest lane.  With the increased traffic from these two developments onto Ernest Lane, these matters have not at all been taken into consideration.  

  Further, with Turlington Septic Services being on the dirt road part of Ernest Lane with 6 trucks in their yard, the level of surfacing that VDOT will be putting down on Ernest Lane may not be enough to handle the business use at the front of Ernest Lane.  There are also several people who live along Ernest Land who make their living driving tractor trailer trucks and sometimes those trucks do travel Ernest Lane, so again, there may prove to be issues as to whether the surfacing will even hold up.

  So the question really is, does Ernest Lane qualify under the Rustic Rural Road program or not?  It does not appear to us as though it does.  Now it would if Songbird Path was not planned.  Then it would appear that Ernest Lane does qualify.  Bedford Falls and Seawell's Trace are a real game changer to the entire picture here however.  Plus, with all the other open land around this area, further development will cause even more complications that would need these issues addressed.  If that is not all, there is still more.

Pictures taken between Ernest Lane and the back end of Bedford Falls homes, seems to show wetland grasses along the property lines.  Has a study even been conducted to show that Songbird Path will "NOT" be crossing any wetlands to enter onto Ernest Lane?  It appears that a lot of issues have not been looked at here and need to be addressed before the Board of Supervisors are even asked to consider keeping Ernest Lane on the Rural Rustic Road program.  Again, it does not look like it qualifies based on developer plans.  Now if the developers want to pave the road properly, put in the stop light along route 17 and also put in the turn off lane going to Ernest Lane, then that is a different story.  In fact, the developers should be made to pay these expenses.  It's not the responsibility of the majority of the taxpayers. 

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