DANVILLE, Va. — The existing transportation network in the Schoolfield area can handle a casino at the former Dan River Inc. there, but roundabouts and other improvements could be made at intersections to deal with increased traffic, a study shows.
A study on the traffic impacts from a Ceasars Virginia casino resort, which began in mid-June, was conducted by EPR, PC in Charlottesville at a cost of $27,500. The report was completed in February.
“The traffic associated with the proposed casino project can generally be accommodated by the surrounding transportation network with some improvements,” the report states.
It recommends directional signing and turn lane improvements at intersections in the area.
“Providing directional signing ... reduces the impact of the project on the transportation network,” the report states. “Signing, along with turn lane improvements, mitigates the impacts to the existing study area intersections.”
The study focuses on the intersections at Memorial Drive and West Main Street, as well Memorial Drive’s intersections at Bishop Road, Piedmont Drive and Park Avenue. It also looked at West Main Street’s intersections at Bishop Road, Wood Avenue and Park Avenue.
“I’m pleased that there won’t have to be any major upgrades to the roads,” City Manager Ken Larking said.
EPR’s report mentions roundabouts as possibilities at the intersection of Bishop Road and the driveway at the Schoolfield site, and at West Main Street and Park Avenue to address expected growth in traffic volume.
“Consideration of a roundabout at the intersection of Park Avenue with West Main Street alleviates a queueing issue and also creates a stronger sense of place,” the report states.
A roundabout is a circular intersection — with no traffic signals or stop signs — where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. Drivers yield to traffic in the roundabout before entering and then leaving it to go to their desired street.
The traffic impact assessment’s purpose was to understand changes in traffic flows that could result from redevelopment at Schoolfield and help the city plan for possible transportation projects, said city engineer Brian Dunevant.
“The information will be reviewed between the city and the site development team as the project development process advances,” Dunevant said. “Any potential projects will need cost estimates developed, a funding source identified and a schedule.”
Dunevant said he agreed with the idea of a roundabout at Bishop Road and the casino site.
“It is a good concept that would provide an acceptable level of service for traffic operations while creating an enhanced entrance to the site,” he said.
A casino at Schoolfield is expected to bring 1,651 “new external trips” to the site during peak afternoon and evening hours when the resort is full or during events, according to the report. Estimation of those new trips takes into consideration each use within the casino, which is not included in the external trip figure, said William Wuensch, principal and transportation engineer at EPR.
“External trips are those that result in vehicle trips to and from the site,” Wuensch said.
To come up with trip figure, the report assumes 0.5% traffic growth in the area per year, even without the casino being built.
“This is a background growth projection and does not include the casino traffic,” Wuensch said. “The casino traffic volumes are layered on top of the background traffic growth.”
Lines of cars could grow to more than 500 feet at West Main Street and Bishop Road by 2045 during peak times, and up to 677 feet at West Main and Park Avenue, and at around 300 feet at West Main and Wood Avenue, according to the report.
“Turn lanes and tapers are warranted at each of the locations where queues are expected to be lengthy,” the report states. “In addition to new turn lanes, ... existing turn lanes should be extended at two locations.”
Larking said turn lane improvements would be likely, but roundabouts will take more consideration.
“That’s going to take some further thought,” Larking said.
The report also recommends improving bicycle and pedestrian access consistent with the Danville Comprehensive Plan, including widening sidewalks, adding bicycle facilities, and installing crosswalks, and pedestrian push buttons.
EPR used projected casino attendance figures to determine what changes to the roads, if any, would be necessary. The report went by figures that estimate about 60% of casino traffic would come from Greensboro and the Raleigh/Durham area in North Carolina, and about 30% would come from other parts of Virginia including Roanoke, Lynchburg and Petersburg. Local traffic from within Danville would make up about 10%.
Schoolfield is significant as one of the largest textile mill villages in Virginia and the South. The village was founded as an independent company town in 1903 by Dan River Inc., which owned all the houses and other buildings in the town. The city of Danville annexed Schoolfield in 1951.
The industrial site in Schoolfield covers about 85 acres and roughly 700,000 square feet of structures, including the 617,000-square-foot former finishing plant, which can be seen from West Main Street in Schoolfield.
Caesars Entertainment, based in Paradise, Nevada, plans to build a $400 million casino resort with 300 hotel rooms, a 35,000-square-foot conference center, a 2,500-seat live entertainment venue, restaurants and bars, 2,000 slot machines, 75 table games, 16 poker tables and a sportsbook to wager on various sports competitions.
The project is expected to be complete in 2023 and is anticipated to generate 900 construction jobs.