This report is from a road/hiking trip taken in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia on October 31, 2004.
Took advantage of very good weather in Virginia today (despite some morning
clouds) to head on a combination fall colors and hiking trip up to the Blue
Ridge Mountains. Some notes:
- Started by taking parts of Shell Rd (the road I live off of) I haven't been on yet. Shell Rd was originally VA 12, then became US 460 in 1933, then VA 13Y in the early '40s, then finally VA 166 in 1956 before VA 166 took over its current Diamond Springs Rd routing in 1964. Mike Roberson's site refers to VA 13Y #2 and previous renditions of US 13 and US 460 as running along Northampton Blvd, which prior to 1964 did not exist east of Diamond Springs Rd (construction of Northampton Blvd here coincided with the opening of the CBBT that year). These routes ran along Shell Rd, then Pleasure House Rd up to US 60/Shore Dr.
- Approaching the Coliseum Central project on I-64, traffic first goes from 3 to 2 lanes just east of Armistead Ave now (instead of at I-664), and the split between the "express lane" and the "local lane" is right under the I-664 overpasses. This "express lane", mentioned previously, runs from I-664 to Hampton Roads Center Pkwy. Paving operations were underway in the gap between the express and local lane, as was operations relating to the future NB 258 to WB 64 flyover (which is mostly done over 64 and 258 but still needs grading and the bridge over the WB 64 to SB 258 loop.
- Traffic on I-64, as usual, was thick to VERY thick between Newport News and I-295. It's getting to the point where, even on nights and weekends, I'll take alternate routes if I'm not in a hurry or don't want to deal with the rat-race (which in some regards is worse than the I-95 rat-race between Richmond and D.C.). VA 143 is an okay alternate in the Williamsburg vicinity (but has too many traffic signals once you get south of VA 238), and US 60 is an excellete alternate route between Norge/Toano/VA 30 area and I-295. Taking both alternates reduces my "I-64 exposure" from 82 miles to about 45 miles.
- Rather than opt for I-295 around, I took I-64 through Richmond. Heading north/west on the I-64/I-95 duplex, the advance guide sign for Exit 78, VA 161/Boulevard, includes the VA 161 shield, but the guide sign at the exit itself doesn't. Also, the I-64/I-95 duplex could use another lane in each direction (for a total of 8), and most of the duplex has enough ROW to where you could squeeze another lane in...near downtown would be the biggest problem.
- Some pavement/bridge repairs on I-64 near US 33/Staples Mill Rd (that Scott has mentioned previously, IIRC). Noted how the speed limit goes from 55 to 60 west of Glenside Dr, then up to 65 west of Parham Rd.
- Advance guide signage approaching VA 288 South/Exit 175 showed Chesterfield as the control city. However, guide signage at the exit itself showed "Local Traffic" instead.
- Two signs warning to "Watch for Stopped Vehicles" between 4pm and 6pm at SR 617/Exit 167.
- Fall colors, which had started showing up northwest of Williamsburg, were more in force once I got towards US 522. Once past the Blue Ridge, they looked to be just past peak, with many trees having lost their leaves already.
- There's an abandoned rest area on I-64 west of SR 605/Exit 149, something I hadn't really noticed before.
- Decided to check out construction on VA 262 at this point. Although I didn't see what was going on at VA 254, bridgework and grading are underway at both VA 252 and US 250...looks like both bridges are going to be a single carriageway, one lane each direction with shoulders.
- Photographed previously, but there is an Interstate-style shield near downtown Staunton which says: ROUTE 252 ENDS HERE.
- Tooled around downtown Staunton a little bit, noticing a few interesting signs. At a few intersections, there was an Interstate shield with an arrow inside of it, pointing the direction to "the Interstate". Also some disparity in signage as to whether Augusta St through downtown is mainline US 11/US 250 or BUSINESS US 11/BUSINESS US 250. After some research, it looks to be BUSINESS US 11/Mainline US 250.
- At least 4 sets of cutouts still exist along US 250 northwest of downtown.
- Took VA 275 back towards the east. From US 250 to just west of I-81, VA 275 is a super-2 expressway with 3 at-grade intersections, an at-grade signalized intersection (at US 11), and an at-grade railroad crossing (just east of US 11). There's a brief 4-lane segment (maybe 2/3 mile at most) in the vicinity of I-81 (standard diamond interchange), then VA 275 becomes a regular 2-lane road between SR 790 (just east of I-81) and VA 254. The VA 254/275 intersection is configured so that VA 275 to the west and VA 254 to the east is the "through road".
- Although there seems to be no official records of it, there is a TRUCK US 250 posted along VA 275 and US 11, bypassing central Staunton.
- Although I missed a photo opportunity, a set of VA 254 cutouts still exists a few miles west of Waynesboro.
- Directional banners in Waynesboro use a very weird font...looks almost like a Series C condensed. A few banners spelled out "JUNCTION" in full instead of using the JCT abbreviation.
- Interesting to note that US 250 and US 340 parallel each other on different streets through central Waynesboro, even though they both junction on each end.
- Decided to park right at Rockfish Gap (near a HoJo's restaurant) and take my hike from there. Hiked northeast from Rockfish Gap along the Appalachian Trail (which follows the Blue Ridge in this area of Virginia). 2.5 hours, roughly 5 miles, 1 sprained ankle and 5 broken skin/bleeding patches later, I managed to make it back to my car.
- On the last leg of my return trip, as I headed off the beaten path in search of decent photo views, I came upon a small expanse overlooking where I-64 crosses through Rockfish Gap. Some excellent photo opportunity there, and I saw where someone had even built a teepee overlooking the gap. Rather dirty and garbage-filled inside the teepee, unfortunately.
- After recovering, I started my return trip by heading south along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping to take a few photos along the way. Lots of tourists and sightseers along the BRP. I bailed from BRP at SR 664, which is the road to get to Wintergreen Resort and also goes to VA 151.
- Stopped for a late lunch in Nellysford at a palce called "MC2" (where MC = Mossey Creek). As with most things around Wintergreen, it was a tad expensive, although the quesadilla I got for on the road was large and excellent. Once done in Nellsyford, I took a shortcut down to US 29 to head south to Lynchburg (SR 634 to VA 6 to US 29).
- While along US 29, I noticed two locations on the Amherst bypass north of US 60 that looked like they used to be at-grade intersections that have since been removed.
- Passed through the construction at the north end of the under-construction Madison Heights bypass. Still a long ways to go at this north end. US 29 drops to a single lane, with an at-grade connection to BUSINESS US 29 up to Amherst. There's a 45 MPH speed limit with signs warning of a $500 fine for speeding. The future US 29/BUSINESS US 29 interchange will be, to put it midly, a jumble of ramps. Are there any maps showing the future configuration of this interchange?
- Next up I checked out the future VA 130 extension out to the new bypass. The westernmost 1/2 mile or so, which follows existing SR 669, is 5-lane undivided boulevard and is signed as SR 669. The new-new part is presently unsigned and unnumbered. The new part is a 4-lane expressway and signed 55 MPH. Between SR 677 and the future bypass, though, the speed drops to 45 MPH and it becomes a 4-lane undivided crossing over the future bypass. East of the bypass the road ties into SR 669 and SR 670.
- The bypass itself in this area has concrete pavement for the mainline lanes. Still some pavement work to be done on both the shoulders and the ramps...these look like they'll be asphalt. The interchange at VA 130 will be a diamond.
- Just south of the SR 622 overpass over the future bypass, VDOT is building what looks to be a truck weigh station.
- Further south, SR 672 has been partially realigned near where VA 210 will be extended to the bypass. Speaking of the VA 210 extension, it's completed (albeit signed "local traffic only") and is unmarked/unnumbered. Coming from existing US 29, VA 210 still takes a right turn to go into the "Central VA Training Center".
- From existing VA 210 to SR 672, it's a 4-lane 55 MPH expressway. Just east of SR 672, it drops to undivided, and then the bridge over the future bypass is only 2 lanes (with shoulders), though this should be adequate as there's next to nothing east of here (due to the James River). The interchange will be a partial-folded-diamond in that the NB off-lamp will be a loop. That loop will also have a "free-right" onto WB 210.
- At this point I headed back to US 29 to take photos of signage along the Lynchburg Expressway. At the north end, where BUSINESS US 29 merges back in, there's a side-mounted signal with a double red lens. I did a U-turn here to head back south.
- As mentioned previously on MTR, the two exits on the Madison Heights side are unnumbered. Exits on the Lynchburg side however, ARE numbered, sequentially, with Exit 1 being at Main St and exit numbers increasing as one heads south. The exit numbering sequence continues onto US 501 heading north (after US 29 South splits off) up to Graves Mill Rd (Exit 11).
- Various distances seen on advance guide signage along the Lynchburg Expressway include 1/2 mile, 1/4 mile, 1/3 mile, 1/5 mile, and "500 feet". ISTR also seeing 1/8 mile and "800 feet", although I don't have any photos to confirm either. Only saw one that was longer than 1/2 mile, that being 1 mile on SB US 501 at Graves Mill Rd (on the advance guide sign for BUSINESS US 460).
- The main part of the Lynchburg Expressway ends at, almost fittingly, "Breezewood Dr". At this point, US 501 becomes a 5-lane boulevard for about 1/2 mile, through the intersection with US 221, before it picks up the other part of the Lynchburg Expressway. This part, running from Old Forest Rd up to BUSINESS US 501/Boonesboro Rd, is a super-2 freeway with a folded-diamond interchange at Wiggington Rd. US 501 also briefly widens to 4 lanes at the interchange itself, but not enough to be particularly useful.
- At this point, I turned myself around to angle myself to head east out US 460 and back home. There's a 3-level stack at the western US 460/US 501 interchange. Further east, where US 460 has been realigned as part of the US 29 Madison Heights bypass project, VDOT put in a traffic signal (complete with 45 MPH approach speed limit) just west of the future interchange, tying into the bypassed part of "Richmond Hwy" and existing development off of it. Someone else mentioned previously on MTR that VDOT should have upgraded US 460 between US 501 and future US 29 as part of this bypass project and I agree.
- Was too dark to take photos by this time, so I just resigned myself to a dark drive along US 460 to Suffolk and eventually back home. For rail/traingeeks, there are some opportunities for railgeeking along US 460 between Concord and Farmville, and infact I slowly passed one eastbound train between Concord and Appomattox.
- Not much else of note. Got home a little before 10pm, having spent 13 hours and 268 photos out on the road and trail.
Foliage/hiking trips (with a few road-related photos as well) can be temporarily viewed at http://www.ajfroggie.com/pics/vapics/fallfoliage2004/ . This will also be the directory I put pages up in as I complete them.
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