The Polo Grounds Road Underpass

In yesterday’s Daily Progress, Jeremy Borden wrote about the Polo Grounds Road underpass, where the road goes to one lane while it goes under the CSX tracks. In the daytime a brief tap on the horn ensures that nobody is coming through, while a headlight flash does the trick at night. Traffic was increased considerably there while Proffit Rd. was closed, so the VDOT set up a temporary traffic light to handle the flow through the one-lane underpass. Rivanna district supervisor Ken Boyd was disappointed to see the light come down when Proffit opened up again, and is advocating for a permanent light there.

I drive through that a few times each week, as do many friends and family members, some of whom have done so their entire lives. I’ve never heard anybody complain about it. If there’s ever been an accident there, I’ve never heard of it; in fact, VDOT says it has a flawless record for at least the past five years.

5 Responses to “The Polo Grounds Road Underpass”


  • I am delighted that you called VDOT “the VDOT”. I may need to do the same from now on. It has charm.

  • I’ve never had an accident there… but it’s still pretty scary to drive through. I’m always expecting an SUV to come barreling through and knock me off the road. (I’ve seen it almost happen a couple of times.)

    I’d love to see a permanent light there.

  • I agree, Lyle Solla-Yates. Although, Waldo at one point does refer to the VDOT without the article. So…does this mean that NASA, MACAA, NASCAR and JADE (as well as countless other acronyms) should have “the” in front of them? Or is “the” understood, in a sense, much like “and,” “for” and “to” are within many acronyms?

    I think I’ve put too much thought into this. Or maybe not enough?

  • I used to pass through there a couple of times a week as well, and I did nearly get hit several times. I have not used it during the time that Proffit Rd. was out, so I can’t comment on what that was like, but I’ve been through it while temporary lights have been up and they were extremely annoying.

    I think what makes the lights annoying is the same thing that causes it to be dangerous: it’s pretty rare to meet a car coming the other way, so people make “rolling stops.” All three of my near misses occured after I’d come to a complete halt and honked as the signs indicated (BTW – I observed local residents painting those signs – they are not the handywork of VDOT or CSX). All three involved distracted drivers (one mom in a minivan and two young women with cell phones glued to their ears) who just rolled through – I guess they didn’t hear my horn – I know they didn’t honk – all three gave me the “oh sh*t, I’m sorry” look. Interestingly, all three were travelling in the downhill direction – it’s much scarier to approach from the bottom; the top gives you the illusion you can see beyond the underpass because you can see through the underpass.

    It is annoying to sit for minutes on end for a light at an ‘intersection’ you know is clear. Unless the lights have trip sensors, I think people will start ignoring them as well. I think a light would be good, but it would have to have sensors.

  • I live in Proffit, so I drive both Polo Grounds and Proffit regularly. Since the bridge re-build and the underpass light are an inter-connected subject, here’s thoughts about both.

    I am pleased that the bridge remained one lane. I have heard the story that making it two lanes would have required changing the approach, which would require moving or destroying several Proffit Station homes, some of which are old and of historical value. However, I wonder what the time frame is for the eventual and/or inevitable widening and straightening of Proffit Road? Will it eventually morph into another Rio Road? I hope not, but, the traffic is only getting worse. I assume the new bridge has a quarter-century life span, at least, so, hopefully no major road changes before then? I have seen the reports that on weekdays, the bridge has 5,200 cars crossing it. My math might be wrong, but, that works out to one car every 17 seconds, 24 hours a day. I kind of doubt it, but, I haven’t sat up there with a stop watch either.

    Now about the Underpass. When we’re coming up 29, we always say, “Going over or under?” and then decide which way to go, Polo Grounds and the underpass, or, Proffit and the bridge, depending on conditions. We avoid Polo Grounds when conditions are wet, due to the southern approach to the underpass. Why are there no guard rails on that steep sharp downhill curve going by the goat pasture? Other roads have guard rails for less dangerous curves. No arrows even. The underpass is danerous, but, no so dangerous as the southern approach. Many cars have gone off the road and through the fence and down the hill. I would like a permanent light, and, we have signed the petition for it, but, I agree that it would need a sensor for light traffic hours.

    In the end, I hope that increased development will not force major changes on the Proffit community. Its sad to see growth like “Proffit Ridge” being built. At least they took a name from the actual community and did not call it something generic and unrelated to local history. Maybe governments should take the attitude that roads do not have to meet the needs of increased development, but rather, development should be self-limited by existing, sensible, adequate public infrastructure?

    Happy traveling!

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