By Nancy Lindsey
The Patrick County Board of Supervisors agreed Aug. 8 to apply for HB2 funding for a safety project at the intersection of Rt. 58 east and Rt. 680 (Spring Road on the north side of Rt. 58 and South Mayo Drive on the south side) in Patrick Springs.
The intersection has been a source of controversy for years, with every traffic accident raising the level of concern among citizens and government officials.
The answer most people favor is installing traffic lights, but the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has consistently said the traffic at the intersection does not warrant signals.
County Administrator Tom Rose said VDOT is recommending installing median strips to eliminate some of the many points of entry into the intersection, which VDOT says would cut the risk factors in half.
VDOT acknowledges there are problems, according to information released at the Aug. 8 meeting: “A number of collisions have taken place at this intersection, which are believed to be attributed to lack of access management strategies… Approximately 12 commercial access points are located within close proximity of the intersection, enabling simultaneous vehicle movements from any parcel at a given time.
“A possible contributing factor to the collisions is the straight, wide geometry of U.S. Rt. 58 in the vicinity of the intersection, which likely encourages speed,” VDOT said.
According to VDOT statistics, from 2011 to 2015, a total of nine reported crashes have taken place at this intersection…”five of the collisions were considered minor (visible injury), three were considered more serious requiring ambulatory support, and one was fatal. All crashes were angle collisions.”
VDOT recommends that commercial property owners and the post office minimize the number of vehicular access points and encourage the use of shared access points when feasible.
Other VDOT recommendations are the installation of electronic speed monitoring devices to be integrated with 45 mph speed limit signage along Rt. 58 to alert drivers who are exceeding the speed limit, and installing rumble strips on Rt. 58 to alert drivers approaching the intersection to drive with caution.
VDOT is also proposing improvements to the intersection, including a 550-foot raised median with 200’ taper and 200’ eastbound left-turn lane on Rt. 58 west of the intersection; a 400-foot raised median with 200’ taper, 200’ westbound left turn lane, and 100’ eastbound left turn lane; installation of right turn channelization mechanisms at Rt. 680 north and south of the intersection; and installation of a “dog bone” island at the center of the intersection to prohibit left turns from Rt. 680.
The West Piedmont Planning District Commission (WPPDC) sees the intersection as the number one safety issue in Patrick County, and believes the project has a good chance of being funded, Rose said.
Mayo River District Supervisor Lock Boyce said he was concerned that a long line of stopped vehicles would cause more accidents than the current situation. He said he thought Lisa Price Hughes, VDOT resident engineer, was going to put up flashing lights and a banner across the intersection.
Installing caution lights would make more sense than the new VDOT plan, Peters Creek District Supervisor Rickie Fulcher said.
Drivers will have to go beyond the medians to turn around, Fulcher said.
“It will be a u-turn in a blind curve,” he said.
“I think VDOT can do this without our approval,” said Blue Ridge District Supervisor Karl Weiss.
In other matters at the August meeting:
• On a recommendation by Commissioner of the Revenue Janet Rorrer, the board voted 4-1 to set the personal property tax (aka car tax) at 44% of the assessed value.
Dan River District Supervisor Roger Hayden voted against the motion by Boyce, with other supervisors voting in favor.
• Following executive session, the board voted unanimously to reappoint Brenda Roberson to the Patrick County Economic Development Authority (EDA) and appoint Ralph Cline to the Patrick County Planning Commission.