Waterford Traffic Woes: Speed Signs, Bypass Study Approved

The village of Waterford will get electronic signs displaying drivers’ speeds, and a study of larger potential traffic calming projects, to tackle the problem of heavy traffic barreling through town at high speeds.

The three signs, on Loyalty Road, First Street and Clarkes Gap Road, are estimated to cost the county $100,000. The Board of Supervisors this week also endorsed the review the viability of other traffic calming measures such as chicanes, chokers, or a bypass.

It is the latest step in a years-long conversation around traffic in the village, and the Waterford Citizens Association has taken an active hand in shaping the county’ s plans.

A November 2016 study of speeds on the roads in Waterford showed drivers typically going 10 miles per hour or more above the speed limits on some roads in the village, particularly High Street, Loyalty Road, and Water Street. Another study in October 2019 found even higher speeds, with drivers going as much as 22 miles per hour above the limit in a 20-mile-per-hour zone on Clarkes Gap Road.

Another study in 2016, comparing license plates passing through either end of the village, estimated around 30 percent of vehicles were cut-through traffic from outside the community in the morning rush hour, and around 60 percent in the evening rush hour.

Based on those studies, the county proposed several options, such as signs prohibiting through traffic with an occasional law enforcement presence, restricting traffic in some local streets during evening rush hours, cutting off Factory Street’s connection with High Street, and building a bypass. The citizens’ association pushed back on those ideas, concerned they would only push traffic onto even smaller village roads, and in the case of changing Factory Street, endanger the village’s National Historic Landmark by giving the road a modern update.

The citizens’ association made a counterproposal, such as taking measures to prevent navigation services from routing people through town, other traffic calming measures, and studying the possibility of a bypass if those don’t work.

Although the counterproposal mentions a possible bypass route southwest of the village around the Waterford Foundation’s Phillips Farm, Waterford Citizens’ Association Traffic Committee chairwoman Meredith Imwalle said those plans are constantly evolving.

“In fact, I was out walking the streets with VDOT and the county today, and we’ve made more changes, so it’s sort of a living, breathing traffic management plan,” Imwalle said Thursday. And she said while the association members envision a small, two-lane road, they are not sure yet where that will be.

That will be decided in the course of a review ordered by county supervisors on Tuesday, in front of dozens of Waterford residents in the board room. The village had come out in support of traffic calming measures, causing some supervisors to remark, as did Supervisor Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), “I would like to thank the entire village of Waterford for being here this evening.”

“Waterford has received a significant amount of traffic largely because Rt. 15 is far over capacity, probably three times,” said Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin). “And I hate to give the bad news … it’s probably not going to get a whole lot better soon until those improvements [on Rt. 15] are done.”

Supervisors approved those plans unanimously.

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