CHRISTIANSBURG — Work is set to begin next month on an $8.5 million project to ease traffic backups along North Franklin Street between the U.S. 460 interchange and Independence Boulevard.

The work is expected to take about a year to complete and will make significant adjustments to the immediate area around the North Franklin and Cambria Street intersection, which experiences backups at peak times for traffic.

“At best, that intersection was rated a D-minus when it was a built and opened,” Mayor Mike Barber said. He added that rush hour traffic from Blacksburg rates as “death and destruction.”

One addition will be a new intersection and traffic light between the interchange and the existing North Franklin and Cambria intersection. That addition will allow drivers — whether they are coming from the mall, Blacksburg or I-81 — to turn right or left on Cambria.

“I think this will certainly improve things,” engineering director Wayne Nelson said. “The goal here is smoother traffic flow, less frustration, less waiting.”

The changes won’t solve all of the intersection’s problems, but they are expected to make some substantial improvements, Barber said.

“If you can take it from a D-minus to a B, well that gets you into the Beta Club now,” the mayor said.

Among the changes will be the closure of three existing entrances that provide direct access to the Christiansburg Recreation Center parking lot, an office center that houses OneMain Financial and another building that houses Davidson’s Pharmacy.

Drivers seeking to access those properties from North Franklin will instead either turn onto a new road that will be built in front of the Waffle House to replace the existing Patrick’s Way, or vehicles can use the existing street that runs between the recreation center parking lot and Member One Federal Credit Union.

Another key addition will be sidewalks on both sides of North Franklin Street between Cambria Street and Independence Boulevard. The sidewalks will make pedestrian travel more safe along this busy stretch of road, Nelson said.

The town is contributing $12,968 to the project, according to Nelson. The remaining funding comes from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program, an initiative that provides state funds for certain local road projects.

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