Neighbors get trucks off Shady Brook Trail

Published 11:54 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

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The persistence of Orris G. Lane and her neighbors on and around Shady Brook Trail paid off in the form of improved safety and quality of life for the people living on and in the vicinity of that roadway in Courtland.

When Lane began noticing that a significant number of large, transfer trucks were using Shady Brook Trail — also known as Route 650 — as a shortcut, she led an effort to get signs put up stating that these trucks could not come through that residential area.

It took a little more than a year and three months of continued effort from Lane and her fellow citizens writing letters and attending Southampton County Board of Supervisors and committee meetings, but the Virginia Department of Transportation put four signs up in October 2021 — two on U.S. Route 58 and two on Route 671 — that read as follows: “Notice: Through trucks prohibited on Shady Br Tr.”

Lane deflected praise to her neighbors for the signs becoming a reality

“I initiated it, but without their help, I couldn’t have gotten it done,” she said.

The endeavor was born after the COVID-19 pandemic led to a lockdown which sent teachers, like Lane, home in mid-March 2020.

“(I) pretty much had a lot of free time on my hands, so I went outside and worked in my flower bed,” Lane said. “So I noticed all the trucks that were coming through.”

In July 2020, she wrote a letter to residents of Shady Brook Trail, Shady Brook Court, Jill Circle and Hunt Club Road, expressing her concerns.

“COVID-19 started in mid-March, and I occupy my time by grooming my yard, attending to my flowers, walking the dog, walking for exercise and riding my bicycle,” she wrote. “I have also noticed neighbors doing the same. It is now hard to perform these tasks because it has become unsafe due to the heavy volume of traffic. (For your information) — in addition, if you have to step off the road when you are walking due to two trucks meeting, you may step into poison ivy that grows alongside the road.”

In the letter, she outlined the key problems of these transfer trucks coming down a secondary road like Shady Brook Trail that is in a residential area.

The first problem she addressed was the trucks’ high speed, which is what twice caused her to reach out to the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office, the first time coming as early as June 2020.

In the letter, she wrote that the trucks were traveling at high speeds up until July 20 when a truck with a component left up after unloading struck the cable line in front of Lane’s house. She stated that it took four days to repair/replace the line after heavy trucks had been traveling over it for four days.

She later noted that cable lines on the road were damaged in at least two separate incidents.

The next problem she highlighted was the high volume of trucks traveling on Shady Brook Trail, and she even provided a list of the company names visible on these vehicles.

“There are at least nine or 10 companies on Route 671 that choose to cut through our neighborhood instead of continuing on U.S. 58 and exiting on 671 to arrive at their destination,” she wrote.

The last problem she addressed in the July 2020 letter was road conditions, noting that Shady Brook Trail was not designed to handle heavy truck traffic.

“The road is in need of repair, there seems to be an increase of litter along the roadside and damage to cable lines at least twice,” she wrote. “In the future, Route 671 will be undertaking a major culvert replacement and two bridge replacements starting Jan. 4, 2021. Route 671 will be closed and detours will be set up. This project will probably add to the already heavy volume of traffic. (Let’s not forget the cotton trucks in the fall).”

By the time she wrote the July 2020 letter, she had already spoken with the sheriff’s office; VDOT; Southampton County Administrator Michael W. Johnson; her representative on the Board of Supervisors, Robert White; and the full Board of Supervisors at its July 28 meeting.

She learned at that board meeting that there is a process residents must go through to get the “No through trucks” signs installed, and the first step was appearing before the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee, which meets quarterly.

In her letter, she provided her contact information if any of her neighbors wanted to attend the committee’s next meeting, which would be in October, or send her a written statement that she could read at the meeting. She also encouraged her neighbors to express their concern to White, while including his contact information, and to attend future board meetings and express their thoughts there as well.

In October, the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee saw no problem with the signs, Lane said, but what helped lead to that result was the work she had put in leading up to the meeting.

“They wanted me to have an alternate route for these (trucks), and I did have an alternate route,” she said. “The alternate route is to keep on (U.S.) 58 and get off on (Route) 671. That’s the alternate route. That’s all (the trucks) had to do was keep on down the road about two, three more miles, and they’re at that location. They didn’t have to cut through our area.”

The committee approved the project, and it went back to the Board of Supervisors for its approval.

As Lane stated in a subsequent letter to her neighbors, before the board could consider the matter for approval, state law required the board to advertise and hold a public hearing. In October, the board approved the scheduling of the public hearing for November. 

After the public hearing, the board approved the project and made a formal request to VDOT for the signs.

“From that point, VDOT has nine months to study and respond to the formal request,” Lane wrote in the letter.

She later said that VDOT requested input from residents, which led Lane to do more writing and to offer more encouragement to her neighbors to voice their concerns.

“VDOT finally approved it, but it was a nine-month process,” Lane said.

She appeared before the Board of Supervisors at its December 2021 meeting to express her gratitude to county leaders, particularly White, for helping her and her neighbors make Shady Brook Trail a safer, better place to live.