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Nike Park Road extension over budget

A proposed extension of Nike Park Road so that it connects with Carrollton Boulevard (Route 17) is likely dead unless Isle of Wight County offers to share in the cost of the project.

According to Jamie Oliver, Isle of Wight’s director of transportation, the Virginia Department of Transportation’s latest cost estimates for the work are roughly $4.4 million over the project’s approved budget. Construction was scheduled to begin in 2023, according to the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization’s website.

The county had submitted the project for state funding five or six years ago via Smart Scale, a VDOT formula for evaluating the cost versus benefit of proposed roadway improvements, Oliver said. At the time, the total cost was estimated at $11.6 million, all of which would be paid by the state.

The extension’s engineering plans are about 50% complete, but the project can’t move forward unless VDOT demonstrates to the Commonwealth Transportation Board that it has enough funding to cover the project’s new estimated cost, Oliver said, which now ranges from $15-16 million. The CTB is a 17-member panel appointed by the governor to oversee Virginia’s transportation projects, including Smart Scale.

One option, she said, is for the county to fund the $4.4 million overage with local tax dollars. Another would be a 50/50 cost sharing agreement, where Isle of Wight would be responsible for about $2.2 million.

If the Board of Supervisors declines to provide any local funding for the project, there’s an outside chance the CTB would agree to funding the $4.4 million overage, but it’s more likely that the CTB will cancel the project and reallocate the $11.6 million that had been approved for Isle of Wight County to other projects.

Were the project to be canceled, the county could resubmit the proposal as a new Smart Scale application, but “we do not expect it to score well if it’s run through Smart Scale now; they’ve changed the criteria, they’ve made it much more difficult,” Oliver said. “This project would not qualify for most of the grants that are out there now. It’s not regionally significant in a competitive way, the cost/benefit is high, there’s a lot of environmental complications and there’s a lot of right-of-way acquisition, which makes it a poor Smart Scale decision.”

The original Smart Scale application was based on future traffic projections, she added. Smart Scale now requires all submissions to use current traffic data.

The goal of the extension is to increase capacity on the county’s side roads so that there’s less congestion when people turn onto and off of Route 17, Oliver said. There’s only a 20-second difference between an intersection that gets a “C” grade from VDOT versus an “F.”

It’s “not like the congestion is going to go away because we put another intersection in … the person sitting in the car at the light is not going to feel like it went away,” Oliver said.

This is the second time this year VDOT has come to the county asking for a local contribution to proceed with an over-budget project. In May, VDOT projected it would exceed its $3.25 million budget for intersection improvements at Brewers Neck and Carrollton boulevards, where a planned 210-condominium development known as The Crossings is to be built, and asked Isle of Wight County to make up the $53,000 shortfall, which the board agreed to in a 4-1 vote.

Newport District Supervisor William McCarty was the dissenting vote in May and was even less enthusiastic about putting up even half of the multi-million dollar overage for the Nike Park Road project.

“If I was against a $55,000 investment from county coffers, knowing the financial things that we are facing as a county, I’m definitely not going to support a $2.2 million contribution,” McCarty said.

Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson and Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie both wanted to see numbers as to how much the county could afford to contribute before making a decision. Windsor District Supervisor Joel Acree said he too had “serious reservations.”

McCarty then suggested asking the town of Smithfield for assistance with footing the cost.

The problem, Smithfield District Supervisor Dick Grice said, is that the road extension isn’t located within the town’s boundaries.

“We have reached out to the town,” Oliver said. “The town has been fully briefed on this situation; they have not offered any contribution at this point.”

“Could the town be negatively impacted if this project doesn’t proceed?” McCarty asked.

“Absolutely,” Grice replied. “Their citizenry could be, and future plans for growth could be impacted.”

Smithfield’s Town Council voted 5-2 in July to approve the proposed 812-home Mallory Scott development at the intersection of Battery Park and Nike Park roads. That development, once fully built out, is projected to generate between 500 and 650 additional cars per hour traversing that intersection, according to a traffic impact analysis by VDOT and the project’s developer, Napolitano Homes. No more than 100 homes are to be occupied by 2022, which translates to about 1,000 trips per day, with an additional 125 homes being built per year in subsequent years.

The Board of Supervisors plans to vote on the VDOT funding request at its Sept. 16 meeting.