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Why these traffic lights on Forest Hill Avenue are irking drivers: ‘We need help’

Posted at 5:21 PM, May 29, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- Traffic barrels and construction equipment line Forest Hill Avenue from Cherokee Road to Gravel Hill Road, narrowing lanes and blocking drivers from making some turns along Forest Hill Avenue.

It's due to Richmond's Department of Public Utilities fixing a collapsed sewer main and stabilizing the ground to prevent any kind of additional collapse.

"Most sewers were installed in the early 1900s and have deteriorated to the point that they have begun to leak, have failed (collapsed), or are at risk of failure," according to a news release from city officials.

While the project's work hours are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, residents and drivers in the area told CBS6 the construction and traffic pattern changes are causing congestion throughout the day, even during slower hours of the day.

The most notable change to Betty Markham, who's lived in Hathaway Towers for last seven years, is the traffic light at Hathaway Road and Forest Hill Avenue no longer telling drivers to stop, slow or go, but rather, constantly flashing yellow, meaning drivers turning onto Forest Hill Avenue will have to wait for other drivers to let them go.

"When I have an appointment, I'm going to allow 20 minutes for me just to get on Forest Hill Avenue, because I sat 10 minutes Saturday before anybody let me in and take a right onto Forest Hill Avenue," Markham said.

Her apartment complex is primarily made up of seniors.

“If one of my neighbors needs an ambulance, how are they going to get here? There’s no pull-off," she said. "It’s just very frustrating and scary.”

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Markham said during the summer months, she's used to seeing water rescue teams travel down her road to Pony Pasture on the James River almost every other week.

“During the summer when there’s a Pony Pasture rescue, you have three big pieces of equipment that go down Hathaway Road, she said. "How are they going to get down there in an emergency, if they have to go expressway to Riverside Drive and then come all the way around that way to Pony Pasture when the fire station is just a couple blocks, up here on Forest Hill Avenue?”

During an interview with CBS 6 Wednesday, Markham said she tried to get in touch with someone to express her concerns.

“I sat on the phone for half an hour yesterday afternoon, before I called y’all, to try to find in the Department of Transportation who to talk to, to change the traffic lights, and they just kept me on hold, and I finally hung up and quit. It’s just hard to get a person to talk to.”

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CBS 6 reached out to DPU with Markham's concerns. According to an email statement from DPU, "during these kinds of projects, traffic behaviors are observed, and adjustments are made as can be accommodated by the project site's limits. In this instance, a review of the MOT (Maintenance of Traffic) resulted in adjustments to the permanent traffic signaling and signage to reduce confusion, and as well as adjustments to the traffic barrels to better facilitate U-turns at designated intersections."

According to DPU, the new measures will be taken this week.

"The project team will continue to listen to the feedback and observe traffic for future adjustments. We appreciate the patience of the traveling public as this hugely critical infrastructure is safely completed," a spokesperson with DPU said.

The project is expected to be completed by December 2024.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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