Don’t balk on 58 speed issue

Published 11:24 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

by Warren Simmons

We would like to say “Thank You” to those in Southampton County and the City of Franklin, who in the last six to eight weeks have taken your time to sign a petition requesting the speed limit on the Highway 58 Southampton Parkway Corridor be lowered to 45 miles per hour. To date, we have over 1,100 signatures from all walks of life, stating we are in a situation both whereby safety and economics are negatively impacted and need to be changed. In addition, several other individuals and groups have joined in our efforts, including but not limited to: multiple business owners, the Chamber of Commerce, the Southampton County Planning Commission, a school, doctors, attorneys and the Franklin Southampton Economic Development Commission.

Unfortunately, and much to our disappointment, the Board of Supervisors of Southampton County is the one and only group that has made a conscious decision to wait until after the results of a VDOT Traffic Study before deciding whether to support our efforts. The board members stated Monday night, as we understand it, that they feel it is not their job to “demand” or influence the State of Virginia to reduce the speed limit; thereby failing to enhance safety, welfare and economics of the citizens of our county. Unfortunately, once the state determines its decision upon the findings, it will be too late for the board to have an impact. In the meantime, our project committee will continue to pursue state officials in our efforts to reduce the speed limit through this corridor.

On Monday night, May 22, our Southampton County Board of Supervisors had its monthly meeting.  On the agenda was the discussion regarding acceptance of the Resolution from the Planning Commission to support the request to VDOT to lower the speed limit to 45 miles per hour in the Southampton Parkway Corridor. The Planning Commission on May 11 voted UNANIMOUSLY to write a resolution to the Board of Supervisors requesting support of the effort to have the speed limit in the corridor reduced from 55 to 45 miles per hour. The purpose for initially contacting the Planning Commission was due to the fact that the speed inside this corridor is negatively impacting the Comprehensive Plan and the businesses, thus also negating the opportunity for future business as well, from both a safety and economic standpoint.

In this corridor lie 28 businesses with 300-plus employees and patrons from across the county and the country; multiple home-sites; an incorporated farming operation; and God forbid, the Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles, to boot, where countless folks who have never driven a car go for testing and test drives, where the elderly renew their licenses and the rest of us do business as well.

Also in this corridor, traffic is now allowed to drive a SPEED LIMIT of 55 miles per hour, which is in no way regularly enforced, and is a major, major problem. Keep in mind this traffic is a composition of  tractor-trailer traffic, school bus traffic with our precious children from three area schools, county citizens (whose average age is 47 and up to probably 90 years of age who are driving on this highway; visitors from other counties and states; and new drivers who have just obtained a driver’s license.

Friends, neighbors, adversaries — we, on our project committee or any other citizen have, at no time asked the Board of Supervisors to “demand,” as one representative implied, that the speed limit be changed. We — meaning business owners, land owners, and dedicated Southampton County citizens, to the total of over 1,100 signatures by petitions — have politely requested support that a change be made in the speed limit, so we may in turn approach VDOT’s Commissioner and the State Secretary of Transportation. We will continue to challenge this speed limit as excessive and with lack of enforcement.

With no lack of respect to the Board of Supervisors and the administrator, truthfully speaking, in our opinion, your decision-making process is starting to look very foolish. If you do not put our safety and economic development (which is now in decline due to lack of safe access inside this corridor) into your priority list for Southampton County, just what ARE you doing and whom do you support? After all, the 2017 Comprehensive Plan deemed this corridor commercial/light industrial, and that is great — it shows an area for growth and opportunity — but endangerment of lives and decline of business absolutely cannot be part of the components in order to make that feasible. Safety and economic factors must be built into the plan — otherwise, just as is the case now, we lose business, not to mention injuries and loss of life.

Just ask any of the business owners established here now what the scenarios are with the traffic on a daily basis — the businesses we have are LOSING business because people want their lives more than the products and services we have available. Some have even left and found other places to establish their business.

As for us, personally, we want to be able to enter our farm and homesite safely. That should be a given for any landowner and home owner.  We deliberately slow down to 45 miles per hour at least one-half mile away from our entrances and will continue to do so. Accordingly, the traffic will move to the left lane, or come to a stop. That is their choice! The 60-70 mile per hour (average) traffic can wait for us!

We will advise you: we will not let up with the request to reduce the speed limit in this corridor.

“We welcome you to travel that part of 58, interact with tractor trailers and others who foolishly want to, and are allowed, to drive over the speed limit while you try to do to business here, and decide for yourselves.”

While it may be a “priority” for some that traffic from the Port [of Virginia] fly like a bat from down under through Southampton County, it is not a priority for those of us who don’t need any of the imported throwaway cargo in the containers transported on this corridor.

What is and should be a priority for our county officials is that we have an appealing thoroughfare with attractive, economically sound businesses, where patrons can and want to safely access those businesses and support the same.

As this Speed Limit Reduction item came to discussion on the agenda, the Board with exception of one supervisor, Dr. Alan Edwards, voted to WAIT until a VDOT study came in before deciding to make a decision on whether or not to support a speed limit reduction through this corridor.

Do you hear us, people? The Board of Supervisors decided to wait UNTIL ANOTHER TIME to decide if the loss of your life or that of your family or of business or the lives of innocent people who travel here are important enough to sit up and listen to pleas and concerns for our safety and livelihoods!

Something is seriously wrong with this mindset and bespeaks itself of insecure children behind a mother’s apron waiting to see what will happen next. IT DOES NOT bespeak of leaders who take a stand for their citizens.

As we write this letter, one of the busiest times of the year is approaching once again — the Memorial Day holiday and summer vacations. We hope and pray that you and yours will travel safely through the Southampton Corridor, the County Comprehensive Plan’s “Window Highway” of Southampton County at least that is what it is called. And it could be — if we had a group with a vision other than that of taking a seat, making arrogant, nervous responses with pre-discussed, pre-determined head-nods and body language, versus truly listening and being concerned about how to make things better for all of us who live here and contribute to Southampton County.

Board of Supervisors, please be advised we did not ask you to “break the law.” As your constituents, you were asked to support our safety and economics concerns. You all voted on Monday, May 22 to not do that, even at the recommendation of the Planning Commission. When the day is said and done, in summary, basically you told us you don’t give a rat’s backside about any of us and our concern about how fast and dangerous Highway 58 really is … you have to wait for Mama (VDOT) to say that it is. We are so looking forward to leaders that wear big-boy britches and can stand on their own two feet and want to make things better.

Board and Administrator, we would appreciate your support in the reduction of Highway 58 on Southampton Parkway so we can be safe and more productive residents of Southampton County and our surrounding areas. Surely, that is not a conflict of interest for you, is it? And certainly you can be supportive and encourage the enforcement of the speed limit as posted to further ensure our safety, can’t you? Or is that a conflict of interest as well? We see you doing neither. It is time to make a change for the better! Please help us decide which way YOU would like to do just that.

It seems that this makes at least three times in the last year and one-half that the Board of Supervisors has been in opposition on large issues; non-supportive and indifferent to the Planning Commission and the people of Southampton County, to whom they were elected to represent and support.

WARREN A. and LINDA D. SIMMONS are residents of Southampton Parkway, Courtland. They can be contacted at