Residents say speeders still plague West 1st Street

FRONT ROYAL – Residents on West 1st Street say speeders still threaten their safety a year after asking Town Council to fix the problem.

But homeowner Holland Daniels claims the town hasn’t made a serious effort to monitor the traffic on the street since last summer when residents petitioned Town Council to at least look at the problem and possibly consider lowering the speed limit.

Daniels stood before council again Monday and said Town Manager Steve Burke was no longer returning phone calls and requests for information about traffic studies performed on the street.

“We feel like the residents in our area not only are being disrespected; we’re being ignored,” Daniels told council during the public comment portion of its meeting.

Virginia Avenue resident Phil Compton lives at the corner of West 1st Street.

“That street corner and the one up at the hill at Virginia Avenue and Massie (Street) – those two corners are simply challenges to traffic going either way on either of those streets,” Compton said. “You just have to live there to know that we need some way to have the traffic reduced and speed maintained and controlled.”

Albert Gunn said he has seen speeding vehicles and high traffic volume near his home on Massie Street. Gunn said this creates a dangerous situation and asked council to come up with a solution such as installing traffic-calming strips or switching traffic to one-way on Massie Street.

Councilman Bret Hrbek asked Burke to put the matter on a future council work session to discuss the possibility of making Massie Street one way.

Information submitted with the petition noted that the residents live on a narrow street without sidewalks. An unusually high volume of traffic travels the small, residential street, the petition states. A considerable number of pedestrians walk to and from Randolph-Macon Academy and E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School. Joggers, walkers, bicyclists and skateboarders use the street. Drivers have killed pets and other animals while racing at high speeds, according to residents.

Burke advised Daniels in a Feb. 22 letter that police set up its speed trailer on West 1st Street from Jan. 4-13 to monitor eastbound traffic, then Jan. 13-22 for westbound vehicles. The trailer includes equipment that tracks the number of vehicles and their speed.

The results showed that 2,978 vehicles traveled eastbound with a maximum speed of 33 mph. The speed in the 85th percentile was 24 mph and 92.6 percent of the vehicles traveled under the limit. Westbound results showed 1,804 vehicles with a maximum speed of 35 mph; 18 mph for the 85th percentile and 99.1 percent traveling under the speed limit.

“The results of this most recent survey are similar to the previous observations,” Burke states in the letter. “While there is a higher volume of traffic on West (1st) Street, there does not appear to be a speeding problem. Our Police Department will continue to monitor traffic on West 1st Street.

Daniels criticized Burke and the police department’s traffic study in a Feb. 29 response letter.

“Mr. Burke, you cannot be serious regarding your recent survey, attempting to masquerade it as a properly performed speed study,” Daniels states. “I am beginning to question the ability or the desire for the town to do such a study.”

Daniels says the recent study contained some of the same flaws as a similar test the town performed in July. Daniels notes that placing a digital, speed-awareness sign, known to reduce speeding, next to a monitor would not yield accurate results. Also, the location of the monitor remains important and the town should not have placed them at the bottom of the hill at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Massie Street, where motorists begin to slow to turn. Also, Daniels notes that the speed awareness trailer blocks almost half the street, causing vehicles to slow down or stop.

The study contains some useful data and shows traffic and speeding problems exist on the street, Daniels states. But the town could derive more accurate data by placing a monitor that doesn’t block the road halfway up the hill, he adds.

Daniels goes on to state that he asked to review data from a study performed in September and October but he has yet to hear back from the town.

Daniels also asks how the town went about reducing the speed limit on Main Street from 25 mph to 20 mph and asks Burke to forward any studies performed for the reduction, including details about sensors. Daniels also has asked for a copy of the traffic impact study associated with the redevelopment of the former Avtex Fibers site.

The police department offered support to the residents after they submitted the first petition and even suggested the town should lower the speed limit to 15 mph, Daniels states.

Daniels has since written a letter to U.S. Congressman Bob Goodlatte asking that he help the residents solve the problem.

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