Alternatives for Route 58 Corridor a priority

Published 9:06 am Friday, June 26, 2015

More accidents occur on Route 58 between the Old Bridge Road and Story’s Station Road intersections than anywhere else in Southampton County. Because of this, the Virginia Department of Transportation has developed a number of alternatives strategies to mitigate the amount of crashes, and consider the impacts of future growth and development of the region.

The study, which also assess the stretch of road close to Southampton High School, is nearing its midpoint. Representatives from VDOT and Kimley-Horn and Associates Inc. presented their findings thus far to the county board of supervisors at Monday evening’s meeting.

Among the options presented by Carroll Collins of Kimley Horn was the “Preferred Interchange Alternative,” which would use loops and ramps that provide access to Jerusalem Road and Old Bridge Road from Southampton Parkway.

“It is my understanding that this design is done and we’re waiting to get the permits from the court,” Collins said. “[Construction could] begin at some point this fall … This is a planning study, keep that in mind. We’re not going to design; we’re developing concept ideas.”

He added that the project isn’t part of a five-year plan, but a 25-year plan.

“We’re looking at existing conditions along the corridor from traffic volumes, vehicle makes and speeds. As we look at the existing data, we’ll go through and identify the potential improvements from addressing safety issues, speeding, crossovers, intersection placement, number of driveways, enhanced mobility and economic competitiveness.”

The consultant presented a graphical depiction of the study area, showing that there are 13 intersections, two stoplights and a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Traffic counts collected from November through March show that 25 percent of the traffic volume is tractor trailers and that speeds are higher than they should be.

“This comes as a shock to no one, but the speeds are a little high along the corridor,” Collins said. “The posted speed limit transitions down to 55 miles per hour, and as you can see, [people] travel eight to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit … Bottom line: There is a speed limit issue here.

“As you can see, no one is going the speed limit right there.”

Although there have been no fatalities within the study area within the last five years, the high speeds concern many county residents like Linda Simmons, who wrote a letter to the board of supervisors prior to the meeting voicing her concerns. She stated that lowering the speed limit is an “imperative issue,” and that action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.

“The problem between the two stoplights is that when traffic is stopped at the westward stoplight and then proceeds when the light changes and gains momentum to speeds greater than 60 — mostly toward 70 — miles per hour approaching the eastward stoplight, it is often times impossible to stop at the light,” she said. “I might add that if they don’t have to stop at the westward stoplight, the momentum is even greater. If there are tractor trailers traveling at those speeds — or even greater speeds — the momentum is so great that they don’t stop their trucks and run straight through the red light.”

Simmons recently witnessed a school bus run through the red light as to avoid an accident with the speeding semis behind her, and she questioned what it would take for a change.

“There is not enough money to remedy the grief and what else would happen if a busload of children were killed,” she said. “This is not an if, but when, for this stretch of road. Should we just tell the bus driver to run the red light if there are tractor trailers rolling behind? Absolutely not. But what should they do?”

In response to Simmons’ letter, VDOT’s Jerry Kee said the department initiated a speed limit study last week.

“The last speed study that we did out there was in 2006, and at that time the speed limit was about nine miles per hour over the posted speed,” he said.

VDOT and Kimley-Horn will have a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, June 29, to obtain feedback from property owners along the corridor regarding potential safety improvements, such as limited access ramps, service roads, median improvements, enhanced turn lanes and the realignment of Route 58.

“These are all just thoughts,” Collins said. “Nothing set in stone. But these are the kind of ideas we look to the public for feedback.”