Lack of Turning Lane At New Interchange Frustrates Roanokers

Interestingly, the original VDOT location map shows public street entrances but not commercial and private entrances in the area.
Interestingly, the original VDOT location map shows public street entrances but not commercial and private entrances in the area.

Instead of a stop light, Riverland Road/Route 116 now has a roundabout in front of the shopping plaza that houses the New Piggly Wiggly grocery store in Southeast Roanoke.  Motorists can’t turn left into the store; they’re forced to go about one hundred yards down and around the new round-about so that they can enter from the other side of the parking lot.  The change affects not only the grocery store, but also a cleaners and Chinese restaurant.

Piggly Wiggly owner Chad Burdette said it’s hard to stay in business with construction vehicles and flagmen present.  “That’s something we’re fighting the city on now.”  He said there’s no reason why there can’t be a turn lane into his business.  “The first week it was open they had construction guys doing nothing but standing there pointing people in the right direction.”

The $8.4 project has been in the works for five or six years, but it wasn’t clear to most local residents that the city and VDOT had no plans to put an entrance somewhere near where the old one existed.  In fact, several members of the construction crew told Burdette that it was such an obvious place that they assumed there was going to be one put in until they looked at the final curb plans.

Burdette said there was also no discussion about how his business would be affected by the change in the road before construction.  He and his wife have contacted Mayor David Bowers, the city manager, and City Council members with their concerns.  The Burdettes even have a petition in their store for customers to sign.  They expect to present the petitions at a future City Council meeting. 

“According to the city, it’s V-DOT’s road because it’s Route 116.” Burdette said city officials have said they have no say over the roundabout until V-DOT completes the project, holds an evaluation period, and finally turns it over to the city.  He said the median could have been made into a turn lane. “We’re doing everything we can do to try and take care of our customers,” said Burdette.

V-DOT spokesman Jason Bond said in an email that the roundabout was installed to improve safety through the highly-congested intersection at the far end of the plaza away from the grocery store.  He said during public hearings on the project in 2008 and 2009 that most of the public comments received approved of V-DOT’s design.

“The existing signal and entrance to the IGA (now Piggly Wiggly) store near Garden City Boulevard was removed to improve the overall traffic flow and safety.  Reducing the number of phases on the signal and creating more vehicle storage in the left turn lane from Riverland Road onto Garden City Boulevard allows the intersection to work better, improves traffic flow and reduces the likelihood of back-ups into the roundabout, which allows the roundabout to function appropriately. If the signalized intersection had not been modified, traffic could back up into the roundabout. There are currently no plans to build a turn lane at this location.”

Burdette is quick to point out that the left hand turning lane that everyone said makes sense is located halfway between the Riverland Road / Garden City Blvd intersection and in no way could affect backups into the roundabout.

The store will have only two access points to Riverland Road once the project is complete and one of those access points will be only usable from a single direction (the north) and the other will become the fourth leg of the major intersection that is the roundabout.  

The grocery store leases the property at this location.  Discussions about property access were made with the owner of the property during the design and right of way planning but Burdette said that the lack of a turning lane was not made clear.

 – Beverly Amsler