Resident concerned subdivision's main entrance creates traffic safety issues
By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- In light of continued efforts by Warren County to improve Va. 55 between Front Royal and Linden, Virginia Department of Transportation officials plan to review the specified area in the next few days, according to VDOT Edinburg Residency Administrator Cliff Balderson.
The county, in its November 2011 Interstate and Primary Highway Needs document, has listed improvements to a three-mile stretch of Va. 55 east (John Marshall Highway) as the "top transportation priority." The section runs from Front Royal to the Linden interchange with Interstate 66. The ultimate goal is to make that section into a divided four-lane roadway, according to county officials.
County resident Herb Dunkle spoke at two Board of Supervisor meetings in December, and both times he brought up the danger of the High Knob subdivision's main entrance and its intersection with Va. 55. The entrance is located just beyond the top of a hill, and Dunkle said it makes for a public safety hazard, leaving inadequate warning time to stop for school buses loading and unloading at the intersection. At the Dec. 20 meeting, he asked that VDOT "construct a safe loading and unloading zone to avoid a fatal accident."
County Administrator Doug P. Stanley recognized the less-than-optimal traffic situation there, but explained that fixing it "isn't as easy as just putting a little pavement down."
The High Knob subdivision wasn't fully developed until the early 1970s, and it wasn't until the late '70s that the entrance was added, Stanley said. He added that if the subdivision were just now being built, then traffic lights, turning lanes and multiple entrances would be there.
Currently, cars traveling west have to make a left turn into the main entrance, and with its location and the lack of a turning lane, he said that it can become a dangerous situation.
"Depending on the time of day, if one vehicle is stopped to make a left turn, it doesn't take but a matter of seconds before you have half a dozen vehicles backed up," said Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress, a former VDOT employee.
Stanley lived in the subdivision for 13 years, and was on its board from 1999 until last year. In 2004, he requested cost estimates from VDOT for a left-turn lane and flashing lights warning motorists of the upcoming intersection. VDOT estimated a cost of about $700,000 for the turning lane, and more than $15,000 for the warning lights.
The lights were installed, but the construction of a turning lane won't happen quite yet, as the entrance is a private road. If it were a state road, the cost could be justified now, Childress said.
The county will continue to ask VDOT to add the four-lane project to its six-year improvement plan, Stanley said.
VDOT's current accident data ranges from 2007 to 2010, and reports 55 total crashes on Va. 55 from Front Royal to the Warren County line, with five at the High Knob intersection.
Data updates will take place in the next few days, according to Balderson, but he couldn't give a definite date as to when the information would be available.
"It's just a major project," Childress said, in reference to the goal of having a four-lane roadway.