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Warren County man crusades for road improvements

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Wells Bill stands outside the intersection of Rocky Lane and Browntown Road near Front Royal. Bill has approached the county and VDOT with almost 100 signatures from area residents along the 45 mph zone regarding speed limits and sight distance issues along the winding stretch of roadway that has seen multiple accidents this year. Rich Cooley/Daily


By Sally Voth - svoth@nvdaily.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.




3 Comments



If the folks in charge do not act they have create a lose only situation for themselves and the public if someone is killed. I have seen situations, where it is obvious a dangerous traffic problem exist, but nothing is done until someone dies. One that comes to mind is the backup on 81n at the Kernstown exit. It was only after a child was killed that they dealt with the backup that would happen every morning M-F.

Lowering the speed limit isn't going to do anything about the "problem" if no one was enforcing the speed limit to begin with. It seems to be an epidemic in this county to lower speed limits to a crawl rather than enforce the reasonable ones that are already posted. I've lived in Browntown for years and 45mph is plenty reasonable for the road. Problem is simple: No one enforces the speed limit and EVERYONE knows it. I've never seen a deputy take radar on the road other than inside Browntown proper.

Sight lines may be a problem (especially Poor House Road intersection) I'll agree to that but leave the speed limit alone. Don't punish me and all the others who are driving reasonably because someone else was going 100mph. If this man and the folks on fairground road and the town of front royal have their way, it'll soon be faster to ride my bicycle across the county.

I don't believe the speed limit is the problem. I have traveled on Browntown for many years and the speed limit seems reasonable. You don't need to make drastic changes due to a few idiots.
Also if this gentleman got clipped from someone going 90-100 mph I cannot believe that the other vehicle continued on. I think he is exaggerating a bit so he can make a point.
Browntown Road is considered a country road. There will always be places where the weeds/bushes/trees need to be trimmed back for better visability, but this is true of most roads. Of course everybody wants safe roads for all citizens but I don't think taking the speed limit down to a crawl is the answer.
Bill might have his heart in the right place but I don't agree with his solutions. Property owners have a right to have fences on their property without someone else deciding whether they think they need to be removed. And if he doesn't like using Browntown Road ...Rocky Lane also exits to Rt 340.



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