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No speed study warranted for crash heavy road

By Alex Bridges abridges@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Speed limits on Back Mountain Road likely won't change despite the winding route's history of fatal vehicle crashes.

Traffic engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation performed an analysis of crash and speed data along the Va. 600-Va. 614 corridor from U.S. 50 to Va. 608. Experts analyzed the data at the request of the Frederick County transportation committee after officials heard concerns from residents about vehicles speeding and fatal crashes that have occurred on the heavily used road.

But the county could lower the speed limit in sections of two other roads as recommended by VDOT.

The committee plans to address the speed limit issues during its meeting this morning.
The posted speed limit on Back Mountain Road is 55 mph, except 45 mph on a one-mile section where the route becomes Va. 614 near Hayfield Road, according to VDOT information.

"The speed limit analysis yielded that vehicles are traveling below the speed limit except for the Rt. 614 section," a correspondence from VDOT to the county states.

While the crash analysis of data from 2007 to 2009 showed a high number of crashes within the study area, the rates of crashes and injuries come close to those published for the Staunton district's secondary roads, according to the VDOT information.

Given the number of recent fatal crashes, engineers then performed a detailed analysis of fatalities from January 2007 to August 2011. However, the analysis "yielded that none of the fatality crashes were correctable due to driver error," the correspondence states, which cites "no restraint used, Alcohol or Drug Use, Motorcycle hitting a Deer," as examples of error.

Engineers did note Frederick County officials should be asked if they want VDOT to pursue a highway safety improvement program analysis along Back Mountain Road (both Va. 600 and 614) to see if any other safety measure beside a speed-limit reduction could be taken.

Such an analysis would look at the geometrics of the road and engineers then could make recommendations based on the study, according to John Bishop, transportation planner with the Frederick County Planning Department.

But in order to move forward with such recommendations the county would have to compete against other localities for a limited pool of grant money for
such highway safety improvement projects, Bishop said.

VDOT engineers also have completed two speed studies as requested by Frederick County officials and recommend:

• Reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph
on Reliance Road -- the 1.32-miles section from just east of Interstate 81 Exit 302 to the Frederick-Warren county line.

• Reducing the speed limit on Tasker Road from 45 mph to 35 mph between Nature Drive and Spanish Oak Road. The proposed limit falls at the low end of the pace speed range, according to the study.

A high number of crashes with injuries and one fatality occurred in the section from Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2009.

Data showed 58 crashes occurred in the section with 39 reported injuries.

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