Funds denied for Route 55 widening

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — It may be a long time before Warren County is granted its wish of seeing John Marshall Highway — which carries Route 55 east of town — become a four-lane divided highway.

The countyís application for state Smart Scale funding to pay for the highway-upgrade project recently was denied.

The county sought about $31.5 million to make the road a four-lane divided highway with a 16-inch raised median. Although no detailed design was made, the application sought to flatten hills and straighten curves, according to Staunton VDOT Coordinator Ed Carter.

The highway was ranked 367th out of 404 statewide projects and 38th out of 42 VDOT Staunton District projects on the state's Smart Scale priority list.

Had funding been approved, Carter said construction could have begun in 2023.

The county and VDOT are still seeking solutions for the overcrowded and wreck-prone roadway.

A $220,000 Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions (STARS) grant was awarded to study a portion of the highway in May 2016.

The study is available to localities without money to upgrade an entire road, and examines possible safety measures for locations with the most wrecks, Carter said. Its focus is the 1.82-mile stretch of road heading east from Commerce Avenue.

The study is intended to identify ways to make John Marshall Highway safe, such as installation of rumble strips or more signs or a reduction of speed limits, County Administrator Doug Stanley said in an email.

A "considerable amount of analysis" goes into the study, Carter said. That includes turning movements, peak hours of traffic, forecasted traffic, Leach Run Parkwayís impact, and traffic on roads that feed into John Marshall Highway.

Capacity on John Marshall Highway has far been far exceeded, VDOT Staunton District Director Cliff Balderson said last year.

The highway covers about six miles in the county from Commerce Avenue to the Fauquier County line, and had an average daily traffic count of 28,300 vehicles in 2016, according to VDOT statistics.

The portion of the road subject to the study saw an average daily traffic count of 13,000 vehicles.

The study should be completed later this year, and could be used to justify requests for funding to make the road safer, Carter said.

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