Chincoteague Council Continues Discussion on Causeway Safety


By Carol Vaughn —

The Chincoteague Town Council continued discussing problems with the Chincoteague Causeway at the council’s work session Thursday.
Town Manager Mike Tolbert reported he spoke with Chris Isdell of the Virginia Department of Transportation about causeway safety, including the idea of making it a no passing zone.
VDOT currently is doing pavement sealing work on the causeway and Isdell asked whether the council wants to make any changes to passing zones before line painting is done.
If town officials wanted to remove passing zones, a VDOT engineer would need to do a traffic study before changes are made. The study would take around three weeks, Tolbert said.
The center line but not edge lines will be reflective but the causeway will not have center line rumble strips under the current plan of work, he said.
Councilwoman Denise Bowden said she formerly was on board with making the entire causeway a no-passing zone but said she no longer feels that way because people pass anyway in the double yellow line areas.
“If they are passing on a solid yellow line now they are going to continue to do it, so I would still like to have passing zones on the causeway because at least that does give them a safe option if they are going to pass anyway,” Bowden said.
Bowden said the council should ask the state for other causeway improvements, including rumble strips, cameras, and more state police presence.
“I feel like we need to ask for everything right now and then see what we get from them,” she said.
Vice Mayor Chris Bott asked whether the roadway is wide enough to accommodate rumble strips. He said he would like to see reflectors added to the edges of the roadway.
“When you are coming across on a dark night and it is blowing and raining, those reflectors make a world of difference,” he said.
Bowden agreed.
Councilman William T. McComb Jr. said signage also is needed, including signs noting where drivers can pull off. Bowden recommended signs telling drivers to maintain speed on the causeway.
“You have a lot of folks that impede traffic sightseeing. We live in a beautiful area — we all get it,” McComb said.
Leonard said the town did not get notice beforehand about the work currently going on on the causeway.
“I don’t know if it’s time to get our representation on board, whether it be the county representation or our state (representatives)…to go to VDOT and say, ‘Look, this road in the summertime is a major thoroughfare,” he said.
Leonard noted a study was done of Chincoteague Road from Route 13 to the Royal Farms, but said VDOT also needs to study and address issues with the causeway itself.
“That is what VDOT is paid to do, is study the roads,” he said, adding, “…I think it’s time we go over Suffolk DIstrict’s head and go to the state level.”
Leonard also said people swerving to avoid running over terrapins crossing the road this time of year are a hazard on the causeway. He said VDOT needs to look at putting up some type of barrier to stop terrapins from crossing the roadway.
Leonard reiterated the council’s recommendation is to keep the passing zones as they are but to try to engage VDOT at the state level about causeway safety improvements.
Bowden asked about the traffic signal at the intersection of Maddox Boulevard and Main Street, where lengthy backups often happen during summer.
Tolbert said he sent a letter about the problem to Isdell, who passed it along to the Suffolk District office.
Tolbert, Chincoteague Police Chief Robbie Fisher, Emergency Management Coordinator Bryan Rush, and Public Works Director Harvey Spurlock met recently to discuss changes the town would like to see made to the signal, which might help the traffic problems there.
“I put those in writing and sent them in a formal letter to Chris Isdell. He passed them along (to the district office)…and we’re hoping to get a response from them quickly,” Tolbert said.
Floating Dock Project
The council approved purchasing floating docks for installation at the harbor from Raven’s Marine, at a cost of $120,000.
American Rescue Plan Update
Chincoteague should receive the first half of a federal allotment resulting from the American Rescue Plan Act within a week. The amount of the first payment is $1.491 million, according to Tolbert.
A second payment is to be made in 12 months.
A public hearing on use of the funds is scheduled for Thursday, July 15.
Tolbert recommended the mayor appoint a subcommittee of the council to review projects, costs, and benefits. The committee would make recommendations to the full council for projects to approve.
The town has until December 2024 to encumber the money and until December 2026 to distribute the money.
Neighborhood Cats Complaint
Teresa Hockensmith, a resident of Ocean Breeze, told the town council they are her last hope to address a problem with feral cats in the neighborhood.
“We have never had a cat problem down there,” said Hockensmith, a 20-year part-time resident.
Three years ago, a neighbor “started a cat colony,” she said, adding, “They are spaying, neuter(ing) them and he’s bringing them back.”
“They are pooping and they are a nuisance all over the place. They have created havoc in the neighborhood,” she said.
Mayor J. Arthur Leonard said the matter would be discussed at a future ordinance committee meeting, saying perhaps a nuisance ordinance or similar measure could address the situation.
“I want help so I can continue to come down here and enjoy it with my family,” Hockensmith said.

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