Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Exit 150

Exit 150 off of Interstate 81 in Virginia is one of the busiest interchanges in the state. At this intersection, US 11 and US 220 also intersect, and not far down the road is US 460.

As such, this area has always had a lot of traffic.

For the majority of my life, there was a big truckstop at the exit, but the state purchased the structure and removed the business in 2015. This, in my opinion, was all that needed to be done, aside from maybe a lane for the Pilot station across the street which became the "new" undesignated truck stop for those long-haulers who needed to make a pit stop.

I remember when the exit was a nightmare. Botetourt County was then more of a bedroom community to the city, and commuters would sometimes be caught in a miles-long backup of traffic come 5 p.m. At times, traffic wanting to get off at Exit 150 backed up to the weighing scales. That's because there was only one exit area on the northbound side, and in order for people to head to Fincastle, they had to make a left turn.

In the 1980s, the state took steps to improve the intersection, but did only a half-way job of it. They added a second exit. The work resolved some, but not all, of the problems. Truckers tended to still use the first exit and then attempt to make a left-hand turn at the stop light, often blocking three lands of traffic as they did so (had they gone a bit further to the "B" exit at 150, they would not have done this, but apparently many of them ignored signs).

By the 1990s there was talk of a "flyover" interchange that would dump traffic out about where Food Lion is today. That plan never saw the light of day, and as the state wound through its money issues with do-nothing delegates (much like the federal government), projects such as Exit 150 improvements were moved back.

But now it is underway, and last night the county held an "open house" forum to introduce the public to the concept of an Urban Development Area zoning designation. The supervisors want to designate the Exit 150 as a UDA, and they also want to apply this designation to the Daleville Town Center area.

What the Daleville Town Center was
supposed to look like as of 2008,
 prior to proffer changes.

My husband and I are skeptics about the ability of the county to accomplish anything of substance, and unfortunately our "rulers" such as they are, tend to listen only to the moneyed folks. Daleville Town Center looks nothing like its initial premise. We knew when the county passed it that the developers would soon be back whining that certain proffers (things they promised to do) would cost too much and they would ask for exceptions.

This they did, have done, and I suppose will continue to do, unless the supervisors have given them a blank check to develop the property in whatever manner the moneyed folks see fit. That is what it looks like from this side of the road, anyway.

The supervisors want to see Exit 150 built up as "walkable district with a mix of new housing, shops, offices, and hotels." Daleville Town Center was supposed to be a planned community with that type of thing, but it has turned instead into a mish-mash of buildings and apartments, with no design coherency. The developers take whatever they can get and build it.

I don't see why Exit 150 would be any different. This is especially true since the owner of one 22-acre parcel is most unhappy with state's eminent domain usurpation of his property in order to create the thru-lane from Alternate US 220 to US 11, a little bypass around the stoplight. The state said his land was worth about $900,000; he's in court this week asking for $3.8 million, according to a story in today's daily paper.

You can read the state's version of what it is doing at Exit 150 at the VDOT website at this link.

Exit 150 is an eyesore and has been for a very long time. I do not dispute that. It has been a traffic hazard for most of my life. The county had no zoning to speak of until the late 1990s, and this allowed gas stations, hotels, and restaurants to spring up in a piece mill fashion. Some of the older structures are dilapidated and worthless - they need bulldozing, if anything. But the property is prime, right there on US 220, and the owners have high price tags on purchases.

The open house forum last night was well attended but poorly explained. I could never get close enough to actually see the plans, and in all honestly, I am not sure what the focus of the event was. I think it was just to say they had something for the public.


This appeared to be the main plan.
 
This was as close as I could get; I never took a good look.
 

This describes what an Urban Development area is -
"a planning tool ... to create great places by
focusing capital investments on target growth areas."  Government bureaucratic speak at its finest.
 
At least somebody did take down comments if
 you stood there and talked to him long enough.
 
 

Nobody looked at this map. I don't think
 anyone understood it.
 
This man was taking pictures. I know him
 but I will be nice and not name him.
 
Some of the comments concerned affordable
 housing, the fact that Daleville Town Center did not
 become what was promised, the need for
 restaurants, and quality of development.

Will this "vision" come to pass? Will Exit 150 be a beautiful space in my lifetime? I seriously doubt it. As one person said to me, we lack the will as a community, as well as the money.

Driving might improve - although more than a few us think an ambulance may as well take a permanent spot in that round-about because we think it is going to cause lots of wrecks - but if Daleville Town Center is any indication of the way this county goes about creating "planned communities," Exit 150 will be another hodge-podge mix of uses, with no thought for anything except who can get the biggest amount of money for what.

*I am no longer a news reporter, but I still have an interest in my community. This is not a news report, this is my opinion on something the county is doing.*

6 comments:

  1. The traffic is worse not better. It was never just the trucks. It was one man who didn't realize he wouldn't have anything without a trucker. It gets worse with every $ that is spent on it.

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    Replies
    1. The traffic remains very bad, especially near the Pilot station. They only created more of a problem there.

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  2. This sounds so familiar. Developers rule the roost in England too. They are allowed to build on floodplains and green belt - and spurn other sites because having to reclaim them would cut too far into their profits. Councils attempt to make them provide more social housing, only issuing permits if they agree to include a unit or two. Repeatedly, they refuse to develop a site altogether if including lower value, smaller dwellings for first time buyers is required. We will never get what people need so long as the only two acknowledged benefits are low cost of production and high cost of sale. We have to stop being obsessed with cost and profit and start thinking about social and individual needs and benefits instead. These should have the highest priority.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hmm. I did not know about this UD idea for the Exit 150 area so my question might be off kilter but, if the whole point was to close the truck stop and eliminate traffic congestion at this intersection, wouldn't developing it just bring the traffic congestion back? If Exit 150 becomes the destination itself then I can't imagine commuters trying to drive through it every day.

    ReplyDelete

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