The timeline for the Hillsboro’s long-awaited traffic calming project has once again been delayed, but town leaders still hope to begin construction by the end of 2019.
Although the town was set to re-advertise its Pedestrian Safety and Traffic Calming Project last Thursday, it has opted to wait until late September to do so. Mayor Roger Vance said that’s because the town is “workingclosely with VDOT on alternatives to the maintenance of traffic plan to save time, ensure product quality, save taxpayer money and ensure a safer work zone.” Vance said that if the town follows the new timeline, it might open the bids sometime in October and be able to award a contract and get the project underway by the end of the year.
“We’re really shooting for Dec. 1,” he said. “We remain on a very fast track to get this thing underway and under construction.”
The town’s decision to delay the advertisement follows its action in early August toreject the three bids initially received. General Excavation bid $19.95 million, A&M Concrete Corp. bid $20.82 million and Shirley Contracting bid $24.99 million—all about $5 million to $10 million over the engineer estimates for the project, which is intended to slow Rt. 9 traffic through the 0.27-square-mile town by constructing a roundabout on Stoney Point and Hillsboro Roads and create a safer place for pedestrians by installing new sidewalks.
Upon cancelling the bids, the town planned to re-advertise the project on Aug. 29 and has been working with VDOT ever since to amend the scope of work and lower costs.
Vance said that while the town and VDOT have “loosened up the strings” as far as where contractors will be allowed to find materials, the real cost savings will come in the form of traffic patterns that could close the entirety of Rt. 9 at certain times of the day so that construction crews can get the work done quicker. “Everything is on the table—we’ve got to look at all the options,” he said.
While periodically closing Rt. 9 through town would inconvenience drivers, it would allow construction crews to complete the work more quickly than the previous traffic management plan.
Vance said contractors noted that construction could take 30-36 months to complete under the previous plan, which did not anticipate full closures of Rt. 9. With road closures, the bulk of the project could be completed in under a year.
“That is part of the impetus to us to fully examine any other option because that’s unacceptable,” Vance said. “We’re going to examine every option to get it done as fast as possible.”
It’s talks of closures and detours that are concerning residents and commuters, since there are few routes to get around Hillsboro other than by way of Rt. 9—and none that don’t tack on a fair amount of added driving time.
For instance, it takes Rt. 9 traffic about six minutes to travel 3.8 miles from the Purcellville Road intersection to the Harpers Ferry Road intersection, according to normal road conditions on Google Maps. If the highway were to be shut off through town, it would take about 26 minutes to travel 14 miles from the same starting point to the same destination—down Purcellville Road, west on Main Street, north on Evening Star Drive, north on Woodgrove Road and north on Cider Mill Road to get back to westbound Rt. 9 and Harpers Ferry Road.
Vance said the town and VDOT are gauging the impact that different potential detours might have on drivers.
“We’re very cognizant of everybody’s concerns,” he said. “We owe it to ourselves and VDOT to do a full analysis.”