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VDOT Working to Save Lives and Taxpayer Dollars Part I

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Route 29 at Polo Grounds Road in Albemarle County Route 29 at Polo Grounds Road in Albemarle County
Base of a traffic light along Route 29 in Albemarle County Base of a traffic light along Route 29 in Albemarle County
Madison Carter and Nathan Umberger Madison Carter and Nathan Umberger
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

The Virginia Department of Transportation is working to identify the most dangerous intersections in our region and prioritize safety solutions.

This week, NBC29’s Madison Carter is taking a closer look at some of the ways the department tries to save lives and taxpayer dollars.

The Route 29 Solutions project took many years to finish, but VDOT says there are still some parts on the outskirts of the project that can better reduce accidents.

Route 29 at Polo Grounds Road is the intersection where Route 29 used to narrow from three lanes to two. It created a dangerous bottleneck. The intersection has had 70 crashes in the past five years, nearly 90 percent of them rear-end hits.

Before the road-widening, VDOT Traffic Engineer Nathan Umberger says the signals made sense.

“Technically, you can have a signal head and it be in between your lanes. So we just meet the minimum,” Umberger said.

With two signals for the three lanes, VDOT is at the state minimum safety standards, but says three would be better. It's the age of the base of the base of the lights that's the problem.

“See how it's very small poles, like light poles rather than larger signal pole foundations,” said Umberger.

The newer pole bases are bigger to allow for a heavier weight load and more traffic signal heads.

The new Brookhill development coming to the area is expected to bring 1,500 new homes and some commercial space to Albemarle County. VDOT plans to let them foot the bill for the signal improvements and widening Polo Grounds Road.

“Because they have some major needs, they'll be changing the road from one lane to three. So it's pretty big in terms of the impact it'll have on the signal poles,” Umberger said.

It's just one of the solutions VDOT uses to keep taxpayer costs down when they identify a safety project.

On the other side of the road, the Rio Mills will change to be a right-in, right-out turn. It will be taken out of the traffic signal design entirely.

The developer is close to having a design finalized. It will then take that, and find a contractor to do the work.