When Marjorie Childs leaves for work to drop off her daughter at school every morning, she knows it’s going to be a long commute, even though she’s not traveling very far.
She said it usually takes her at least 20 minutes to move one-quarter of a mile down Old Carolina Road because of backups from its intersection with U.S. 15, north of Haymarket.
Childs said because Old Carolina Road splits into three lanes at U.S. 15, it gets backed up with people turning right onto U.S. 15 northbound, which is the direction she heads every day.
“You’ve got commuters, [Battlefield] high school students and school buses, and it’s backing up for a mile and a half,” Childs said.
But her commute could start feeling a little shorter, with help from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Nahn Vu, systems operations manager for VDOT, said the intersection was evaluated last week to note peak traffic times, and the delay has been increased by 15 seconds between 6:45 and 7:30 a.m. on Old Carolina Road as of Monday morning.
Vu said 15 seconds was the maximum delay change to minimize traffic effects on U.S. 15.
Although that may not seem like a long time, a 15- to 20-second change is significant “in the world of traffic signals,” VDOT engineering technician Joe Obis said.
“You have to try to balance [the timing] for both sides [of the intersection],” he said.
Vu encourages people to notify VDOT’s Highway Helpline (1-800-367-ROAD) of troublesome traffic areas or to report a need for more evaluation if the situation has not improved after work requests are submitted.
Childs said one of her main concerns, in addition to traffic delays, was also safety at the intersection.
“I’m just afraid someone will get hurt,” Childs said. “You can’t put that many people on a little area [of road] and expect life to work as it should.”
But the intersection isn’t as dangerous as several others in the area, according to Officer John Bogert, Prince William police spokesman.
Bogert said three accidents have been reported at the intersection this year, which is low compared to other intersections, such as where Sudley Road and U.S. 29 meet.
“It’s definitely not one of the worst,” he said.
He said 60 traffic incidents have been reported on U.S. 15 this year.