Traffic study up for supervisors’ discussion

Published 11:22 am Saturday, July 22, 2017

The speed and traffic study on Route 58 in the Courtland area will be among the earliest topics for discussion when the Southampton County Board of Supervisors meets on Monday, July 24.

Several months ago, many county residents began a concerted effort to petition the Virginia Department of Transportation in having the 55 mph speed limit reduced to 45 mph in the business section between Story’s Station Road and Jerusalem Road. This concern has been ongoing since at least 2015. Support from the county’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors has also been sought.

Safety has been the major concern of petitioners such as Linda Simmons. Controlling traffic is done chiefly through two stop lights: one at the intersection with Story’s Station Road and the other at the future Courtland interchange, the latter of which is expected to be removed on project completion. There are also signs that let drivers know that they are approaching signals. Based on reported incidents and near-misses, the people believe that major fatalities are just a matter of time, especially when the second light is removed.

Several business owners have also reported that customers often have difficulty getting in and out of parking lots to reconnect to 58 as vehicles move by at 55 mph or even somewhat higher. In addition to safety, the other fear  is that customers will bypass slowing down and turning in to shop or do other business in that district.

At an earlier meeting this year, the supervisors said they would wait for the results of the requested speed and traffic study. In the view of several petitioners at the time, this seemed to be a distinct lack of support for the community. Simmons noted that in the minutes from the meeting on June 22, 2015, it appeared then that supervisors Dallas Jones, Ronnie West and Barry Porter all spoke out about reducing the limit. Yet most recently, it seemed to be more of a wait-and-see approach.

In his notes to the board for the upcoming meeting, county administrator Mike Johnson stated that he attended a meeting at the local VDOT Residency to talk about the study. At the time, Johnson wrote that “it was suggested by VDOT’s District Traffic Engineer that the Board of Supervisors’ position on this matter might possibly influence his recommendations.”

He then asked Jerry Kee of VDOT to hold off completion until the board can give input on July 24. Since then, Johnson learned that the District Traffic Engineer is interested in the supervisors’ ideas, but “clarified that the Board’s opinion on an appropriate speed limit would not influence his conclusion or recommendation regarding the maximum speed limit.”

As of Wednesday, Johnson added, he had not yet received the study results. So while the Kee might not have the report for presentation, the topic remains one of discussion on Monday at 7 p.m. in the supervisors’ chambers.