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Hearing on Cumberland roundabout held

A Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Virtual Design Public Hearing was held this week to discuss and allow for public input for the controversial Route 45 roundabout in Cartersville.

During the virtual public hearing, held Tuesday, June 22, dozens of Cumberland citizens gathered to learn further details surrounding the roundabout which is proposed to be built at the intersection of Route 45 and Route 690.

The application for the roundabout, a VDOT SMART SCALE project, was submitted in 2017 and approved for funding in 2018. Officials anticipate construction on the project could begin in the fall of 2023.

In recent months, the roundabout project has regained attention from the public, with many citizens calling for the project to be canceled after concerns the traffic circle may be unnecessary or would be better implemented elsewhere. Others have expressed concern regarding the impact of construction on local businesses or properties surrounding the construction zone.

Officials have been clear that ending plans for a traffic circle could cost citizens a tax hike. In early April, Cumberland County Administrator Don Unmussig told members of the public and the Cumberland Board of Supervisors that should he ask VDOT to cease the Cartersville roundabout project, VDOT would invoice the county for all costs associated with the project to date.

In April, that price sat at approximately $250,000. Unmussig said this could mean a four-cent tax hike of 79 cents per $100 of real assessed value. The current rate sits at just 75 cents, a two-cent decrease from the previous year.

Tuesday, June 15, VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich received a letter from Attorney John M. Janson on behalf of Elaine J. Whitley, Ann M. Sayles, All Investments, Inc. and Mo Duncan. Janson called on VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to cancel the June 22 virtual public hearing, citing several “major problems” with the project including improper notice of meetings/hearings, misrepresentation of facts on the VDOT application, and “disregard of over a dozen other much more dangerous intersections in the county identified as having significant safety and geometric deficiencies to allow this unneeded project to move to the front of the line and gain a priority status simply because it will increase the value of real estate held by a few county executives and their friends.”

During the meeting, which went on as scheduled, VDOT representatives noted the intersection in question experienced seven crashes between 2013 and 2019, resulting in three injuries, two of which were severe. Four of the crashes were attributed to speeding. The remaining three accidents were related to the stop condition.

Officials state all seven of the crashes are susceptible to correction with a roundabout configuration.