A devil of a light at Devils Reach

Dear Lane Ranger: I drive a ridesharing van on I-95 south exiting at Va.123/Lake Ridge. I then proceed to turn left at Devils Reach Road and into the commuter lot at Va. 123 and Old Bridge Road.

My question is this: In addition to turning on the green arrow, would it be possible to turn west on Devils Reach Road after yielding on green? As it is, the arrow turns red and remains red for several minutes. During this wait there is a time when there are no oncoming autos and vehicles could safely turn left onto Devils Reach Road. This would alleviate a backup waiting to turn at that intersection. — Rita Renaud of Lake Ridge

Dear Rita: The Virginia Department of Transportation will be reviewing this intersection soon.

VDOT spokesman Bruce Williams said thanks for bringing it to their attention. I’ll stay on them to find out what comes out of this.

I’ve taken questions on other left-turn movements on the east-county end. Williams said each intersection is evaluated on its own particular circumstances. Conditions may vary between intersections such as traffic volumes, sight distances, the speed of opposing traffic and the number of lanes the left turn is crossing.

Dear Lane Ranger: I read your column about why some left turn lanes have a green arrow/red light signal instead of a green light so cars can turn when there is a lull in opposing traffic. My question is more of the same.

I live off Smoketown Road near the intersection of Old Bridge Road. The left turn lane on Old Bridge Road onto Smoketown Road was recently lengthened this summer, and when they did that, they changed the light from a green light to a green arrow-to-red. It drives me nuts!Why was the light changed and is there any possibility you can convince them to change it back to a green light? — Tami Roleff of Woodbridge

Dear Tami: I wish I could. But the statistics show that given that freedom at this intersection, motorists cause a lot of accidents here. I’ve talked about this intersection in depth before and basically it has been a bottleneck that we’ve made safer and more efficient with a dedicated left-turn lane off Smoketown Road northbound and the non-yielding left turn movements.

I’m sorry, but VDOT had to bring order to the chaos.

I remember back home in Chesapeake, right out of my old neighborhood on this two-lane country road we had just a stop sign. It was fun. But then I remember I nearly got killed on my bike (this was 15 years ago) when an alert driver swerved to avoid me. And then I remember my friend who totaled his car at the intersection. Now there is a light.

So I think I’ll defer to the experts.

More on signals: One woman called the Lane Ranger with the belief that VDOT doesn’t pay attention to our signalization — we’re far away from its traffic command base in Arlington.

“VDOT changes things only to get people to stop complaining,” one man called in. He said VDOT analysis is wrong on the timing given to cars off Cardinal Drive onto U.S. 1. Cardinal Drive deserves more time. This was in a column several weeks ago.

“It’s gotten ridiculous … VDOT’s going to have to do some more counting,” he said.

On this first point of alleged VDOT disinterest, Prince William Public Works engineer Steve Stephens, who worked for VDOT for seven years before he came on here, said he knows the people on staff and in and outside the agency he has had cooperation.

The Lane Ranger sees this cooperation, too. If they weren’t getting back to me then you’d hear about it.

VDOT of course has a workload and there are a lot of intersections so the person on the other end of the line at (703) 383-VDOT may not have your street memorized. But that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t care.

Safety concerns dictate whether a signal allows a yield on green movement or just the arrow. Stevens said it is VDOT’s call and based on the number of collisions and also if a high speed of traffic such as 45 mph runs against your turn.

“Signals are really a no-win situation,” he said.

The real gauge for how bad an intersection’s timing is, like Cardinal Drive, are the amount of the calls into VDOT, county public works, and county supervisors, Stevens said. The squeaky wheel idea.

At Cardinal Drive, the caller said he has to wait three cycles to turn left, with it stacked up 15-20 cars — I-95 traffic dumped onto U.S. 1 should not penalize local residents’ green time on sidestreets, he said. I agree with that, but the Lane Ranger is not out there with a stopwatch. Should I be? Are there drivers who sit in this at Cardinal Drive?

Expect Va. 28 north delays

The Virginia Department of Transportation will begin night work next week to build a partial cloverleaf interchange on Va. 28 in Fairfax County to provide direct access to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Air and Space Museum’s companion facility at Dulles.

VDOT is scheduled to begin setting beams to carry Barnsfield Road over Va. 28 at the new Barnsfield Road interchange, about a mile north of the interchange of Va. 28 and U.S. 50. All work will be on Va. 28 between Sully Plantation and Mclearen Road. Work will done between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. only.

Lane closures are scheduled as follows (weather permitting):

Oct. 2, 3 and 7: northbound left and center lanes closed; southbound left and center lanes closed. One lane open in each direction, except when temporarily closed for steel placement, which could run to 15 minutes.

Oct. 8 and 9: southbound right and center lanes closed for crane and steel placement. No total stoppage of traffic nor any impact on northbound lanes.

Construction of the $8 million interchange will be completed by fall 2003 in time for the center’s opening in December 2003. Shirley Contracting Corp. of Lorton is the contractor.

Lane Ranger taken to task

A caller said the Lane Ranger incorrectly agreed last week with Fairfax County police on the situation at Va. 28 and New Braddock Road. He said cars do stack up running the light at rush hour turning left off New Braddock.

Caller, you need to take this up with the police.

I know this intersection is large, so what may appear as running the light may not be if they’ve broken the plane of the intersection before the red, then it is not a ticketable offense. What you might have are cars trying to get out of the intersection during your green, when they got into the intersection during their yellow.

Or maybe you’re right. The Lane Ranger can’t solve every traffic light dispute. I got 10 other intersections I’m looking at now. Use the phone, use your horn, the politicians will respond. And police are polite. I’ll have more next week.

Lane Ranger welcomes and encourages your correspondence. Please send any questions or comments on area transportation to: Lane Ranger, c/o Potomac News, P.O. Box 2470, Woodbridge 22195; fax: (703) 878-8099; e-mail to [email protected] or by phone: (703) 878-8062.

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