On October 30th, Phil North, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, spoke before representatives from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation at the Salem District Fall Public Meeting. Read his remarks on the Route 419/220 Diverging Diamond Interchange and Route 460:
“Secretary Valentine, Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Thrasher, Mr. King, Dr. Smoot and distinguished guests,
My name is Phil North and I currently serve as the Chairman of the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors. Welcome back to the Roanoke Valley!
I would like to start by expressing my sincere appreciation for your assistance in funding the Route 419 and Route 220 Diverging Diamond Interchange in the Fiscal Year 2020 through Fiscal Year 2025 Six-Year Improvement Program. The combination of generous, additional Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization funding and surplus District Grant funding resulted in our premier transportation project moving forward at breakneck speed. Thanks in large part to Salem District Engineer Ken King and his outstanding staff, we are pleased that the Preliminary Engineering phase is already underway. We anxiously await the start of construction in five years’ time, and would welcome an earlier start date to advance congestion relief, to improve safety and to facilitate continued economic development efforts.
Our next regional transportation challenge is Route 460, which is named Challenger Avenue in Roanoke County, Orange Avenue in the City of Roanoke and Blue Ridge Boulevard in Botetourt County.
The City of Roanoke hosts the highest Annual Average Daily Traffic along the corridor with 41,000 vehicle trips between Hollins Road, Northeast, and 24th Street, Northeast. This volume is incidentally tied with Route 419 for the third highest vehicle trips in the Valley*. Unfortunately, the busiest segment of the corridor also includes the most significant bottleneck, where six lanes narrow to four lanes. A project developed with old formula funds to extend the six-lane section to Gus Nicks Boulevard has not scored successfully in two rounds of SMART SCALE, while traffic headaches only grow. Gus Nicks Boulevard also serves as major artery from the City of Roanoke into the Town of Vinton, resulting in challenges for Town residents traveling on Route 460 as well.
Challenger Avenue in Roanoke County experiences the fourth highest volume in the County, with 35,000 vehicle trips, behind only Route 419 and Interstate 81. Congestion makes travel along Challenger Avenue so difficult that, in its current state, there are significant citizen concerns about the approval of any new development along the corridor.
While Botetourt County has the least volume of the localities with 26,000 vehicle trips along Blue Ridge Boulevard between Roanoke County and the Blue Ridge Parkway, Route 460 is a critical conduit for commuters traveling to and from Roanoke, Bedford, Lynchburg and Interstate 81.
Like the Route 419/220 Diverging Diamond Interchange, Route 460 is also identified in the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization’s Roanoke Region Transportation Priorities for Economic Development and Growth, the TED Study for short, adopted in April 2018. Route 460 falls under the Regional Priority to “Improve Connectivity between the Roanoke Valley and the Lynchburg Area”. More specifically, proposed solutions include:
• Reducing congestion on U.S. 460 and improving capacity between 11th Street and the TPO Boundary;
• Pursuing opportunities for alternative intersections along U.S. 460 East;
• Improving capacity on U.S. 220 Alternate between I-81 and U.S. 460 East; and
• Improving and expanding transit options between the Roanoke Valley and Lynchburg area.
Fortunately, two efforts are currently underway to attempt to relieve congestion. The City of Roanoke and VDOT are collaborating on a signal coordination project for the entire Orange Avenue and Challenger Avenue corridor, which should improve traffic flow. VDOT also recently initiated a Route 460 Corridor Improvement Study under the STARS Program to build upon the existing Route 460 Arterial Preservation Program project. In addition to studying operational and safety concerns, the Corridor Study will also take a closer look at the 11th Street Northeast to Gus Nicks Boulevard project in the hopes of assembling a more competitive SMART SCALE project. We look forward to collaborating with City of Roanoke, VDOT Staff, the consultant team, area residents, business owners and commuters to find solutions for Route 460. Roanoke County also expects to apply for Fiscal Year 2022 SMART SCALE funds using the alternatives produced by this study in the anticipation that we can begin to address our critical safety and terrible congestion issues along this corridor.
I invite you to join us at the VDOT Route 460 Public Information Meeting to be held on November 21st at 4:00 p.m. at the Berglund Center to hear first-hand from Roanoke Valley citizens about our persistent and dangerous challenges on Route 460.
Thank you for your time and please travel safely home.”
Learn more about the VDOT Route 460 (Orange/Challenger Avenue) Operation Improvements Study Public Information Meeting.