By Sally Voth - email@example.com
If making his section of Browntown Road in Warren County safer means clearing brush by hand, Wells Bill is willing to do that.
He's also willing to go door-to-door to talk to neighbors, and to contact state and county officials.
Bill, 65, lives on Rocky Lane (Va. 607), which is off of Browntown Road (Va. 649).
"When I moved into the area, I saw we had a problem," he said this week. "Then stuff started to happen."
That stuff included numerous crashes -- some of them serious, such as the one that nearly killed Skyline High School student James Brogan in January. Brogan ran off the road near Rocky Lane, striking a tree. He was comatose for a while, and suffered broken bones, head injuries and a collapsed lung.
Bill said he and his wife, Ephrosini Russell, were struck in a hit-and-run crash last October. He said they were pulling from their road onto Browntown Road when a driver going 90-100 mph clipped their vehicle and continued on.
Last month, Bill sent a letter to Virginia Department of Transportation Residency Administrator Cliff Balderson asking for help in making the region safer.
Firstly, Bill would like the 45-mph speed limit on Browntown Road from Hickory Hill Road (Va. 650) to the Freedom Club about 3.5 miles south lowered to 35 mph, and for the 35 mph stretches in that length reduced to 30 mph in "appropriate locations."
He also said he wants those proposed speeds to be enforced, for tree limbs hindering sight distance at the intersection of Rocky Lane and Browntown Road to be cleared, and for some improvements to be made to Rocky Lane. Those improvements include replacing a culvert he claims is inadequate and widening the road.
In an interview this week at the Samuels Public Library, Bill said there are 83 driveways on the 45-mph section of Browntown Road near Rocky Lane.
"It's the most curvy [part of the road]," he said. "There are more blind curves on that road than you can shake a stick at. All we're asking is to reduce the limit to what's already in existence from the first part to the second part. We all know that putting a sign up [isn't enough]. You have got to take it farther than that."
Last week, Bill met with Balderson and another VDOT official, as well as with Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley, Deputy County Administrator Bob Childress and South River District Supervisor Linda Glavis to discuss his concerns.
At the library Monday, he showed pictures he presented to the officials. In one series of pictures, Bill showed how branches and brush obstructed the sight distance at the intersection. He also had shots after he'd cleared the brush himself.
"I do it because my wife uses that intersection twice a day, and so do I," he said.
Bill also wants a wooden fence that he says also hinders the view taken down.
"My main concern is the speed limit on Browntown Road and enforcement," he said.
As part of his campaign, Bill said he's knocked on neighbors' doors, getting about 90 out of 100 people to sign a petition asking for the speed limit reduction and tree limb removal and clearing. He said about five more gave verbal support.
One of those residents who signed the petition was Eric Noren, who lives on Browntown Road.
"I've been meaning -- and just never got around to it -- to try to figure out who I have to go talk to to have a speed limit sign put up," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I live on a blind curve, and people are always locking their brakes up when I pull out. I have been here eight years. I haven't had an accident, knock on wood."
Even with a convex mirror by his driveway, the situation is dangerous, Noren said.
"My house was built in 1949, and it's on a blind curve," he said. "I don't even think they would let you put in a driveway there nowadays. There's an issue up here. Somebody's going to get killed."
VDOT and Warren County officials couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.