Council talks U.S. 11 speed limit near Food Lion

Speed limits on U.S. 11 in Strasburg likely won’t change any time soon.

But town leaders on Monday broached the idea of reducing the speed limit on the highway, from the Strasburg entrance to the hill before Food Lion, from 45 to 35 miles per hour. The speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour at the crest of the hill then lowers again to 25 miles per hour closer to downtown.

Town Council’s Infrastructure Committee discussed the idea of lowering the speed limit in light of safety concerns at the Food Lion entrance and in conjunction with the proposed Gateway Trail project. The project calls for the creation of a path for bicyclists and pedestrians that would extend from the end of the sidewalk on North Massannutten Street downtown north to the Food Lion Shopping Center and beyond. Work on the design already has prompted discussions about making changes to the entrance at Food Lion to enhance safety.

In order to even consider lowering the speed limit, the Virginia Department of Transportation would need to conduct a traffic study at Strasburg’s expense, Councilman Rich Orndorff Jr. told the committee. Once the traffic study is complete VDOT would consider, but not necessarily approve, reducing the speed limit.

The committee in March talked about reducing the speed limit as a “stop-gap” measure while Line+Grade, the firm hired to design the trail project, looked at how to improve the Food Lion intersection.

“We thought reducing the speed would be something that could improve safety because that is a deadly intersection,” Orndorff said, adding that at least one fatal crash, along with serious and minor collisions have occurred at the Food Lion entrance area.

“Having said that, I’m not quite sure that we want to spend the money and commission a traffic study when we’re not even sure if VDOT will do it,” Orndorff said.

Councilman Don Le Vine questioned the reasoning behind lowering the speed limit. Orndorff said motorists aren’t slowing down when they reach the change in the speed limit at the hill. If the town lowered the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit to 35 miles per hour sooner then motorists would ideally be traveling 35 miles per hour by the time they reach Food Lion.

Councilman Seth Newman said increased southbound traffic on U.S. 11 makes it more difficult to go in and out of the main entrance to Food Lion.

“The next strip mall that goes in there people are going to want to slow down and that’s gonna have to happen,” Newman said.

Orndorff recalled that the town sought to limit traffic entering the Food Lion Shopping Center for safety reasons. Food Lion fought any proposed changes to the traffic pattern at the center’s main entrance, Orndorff said.

The town and VDOT looked at the speed limit issue about five years ago and and the state agency determined then that data didn’t warrant a change in the speed, Councilman Scott Terndrup recalled.

Public Works Director Jay McKinley said he was told that unless any significant changes occurred in the area in question that VDOT likely would not conduct a new study.

If and when work resumes on the planned development across the highway from Food Lion, known locally as the Cedarless Valley, the developer likely would need to conduct a traffic study, Terndrup said.

Vice Mayor Richard Redmon, short of reducing the speed limit, recommended that police increase patrols along that section of U.S. 11. Other members suggested that police officers park closer to the top of the hill to encourage drivers to reduce their speed as they approach the lower limit rather than near the bottom.

Orndorff reiterated that the northern-most entrance to the center remains the greater concern. Orndorff suggested that town leaders meet with VDOT officials and advise them of their desire to look into the safety of the intersection and entrance.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com