Richmond residents hope 2009 traffic study will deter developers from building new Sheetz

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A city-commissioned traffic analysis from 2009 highlighted traffic concerns around Richmond, but residents in the Stratford Hills neighborhood are honing in on data involving the intersection at Forest Hill Avenue and Hathaway Road, which they hope will convince city officials to reconsider a plan designed to bring more traffic to the community.

Mary Elizabeth Willis lives in the Stratford Hills neighborhood and is familiar with its traffic patterns, which she said haven’t improved since the study’s release in 2009. She fears the impact that an introduction of a major commercial chain like Sheetz could have on the neighborhood’s already congested streets.

“It’s a large-scale business and this is a neighborhood,” Willis said. “We feel like Hathaway is a small-scale road.”

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), a Sheetz of the proposed scale would generate approximately 4,000 trips in and out of the parking lot every day. The connector road — Hathaway Road — averages around 2,400 cars a day.

Drone footage shows the location where the new Sheetz will be built. Photo courtesy of Anthony Scott Adams.

With an influx in cars using the busy intersection, nearby resident Keith Rader ponders how the new Sheetz could impact the safety of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists in the area. He told 8News that according to VDOT, 23 accidents have occurred at the intersection within the past few years.

“That [the rate of accidents] has been while the area proposed for the development has been basically vacant,” Rader said. “So, there have been no enterprises operating in that period in that area, so now we’re going from zero to 100 in terms of traffic volume.”

The project is classified as a “by-right” development, which means the project checks all the necessary boxes permitting its integration into the community. However, residents urged officials to look more deeply into how the project contradicts the “Richmond 300” masterplan, which reflects a vision for the city emphasizing the importance of protecting local businesses, pedestrian safety and community charm. City leaders have touted the masterplan for years now, but it has faced delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Willis said the implementation of a large-scale gas station does not match the masterplan and, instead, will only disrupt residents.

“Any addition of vehicles without adjusting the turning area will result in further backup — [that] is what we think as neighbors,” Willis explained. “We use [Hathaway Road] as a conduit back to our neighborhood.”

Willis spoke at a recent city committee meeting along with other residents about her concerns regarding the project and the potential effects on traffic that could come with it. She said City Councilmembers appeared willing to listen.

At this point, according to a Sheetz spokesperson, Phase One of the Sheetz’s construction is still slated to begin by the end of November.

8News reached out to representatives in City Council but is still waiting to hear back.

To read the full traffic analysis, visit here.

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