Making Route 628 Safer For The Children Of Prince Edward County

Published 3:21 pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

Prince Edward County has the opportunity to remove a clear and present daily danger to the children attending its public school system.

Construction of an alternate Route 628 that would come out on Route 15 at the traffic signal near Lowe's offers the chance to stop all through-traffic that must now drive back and forth through the public school complex.

No, thank God, there have not been many accidents along that stretch of road and so, from that point of view, the road is not dangerous. But the potential for tragedy exists. One need only recall the January 2009 accident that saw a 2001 Chevrolet Cavalier driven into the elementary school, part of the car actually breaking through the school's exterior wall into a classroom-Room B-6. Because that accident occurred after school hours, tragedy was averted.

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“…It came off of the road (Route 628) into the school board parking lot into the parking lot of the elementary school straight into Room B-6,” then-Superintendent Dr. Patricia Watkins explained at the time.

Prince Edward County Building Official, Coy Leatherwood added, “When I got there the car was sitting all the way up in the classroom up against the wall on the other side of the room.”

There were no children or teacher in Room B-6, but that accident is a reverberating warning shot across Prince Edward County's bow.

There is an inherent element of danger all along Route 628 as it passes through the public school complex where the county's children, walking or riding in buses and vehicles, crossing the street, along with faculty and staff, come in close proximity to non-school traffic every day.

The alternate Route 628 the Board of Supervisors is pursuing to accommodate future development offers the chance to channel non-school traffic away from the public school complex.

There is more than one way to do so. Two possibilities are rather obvious.

The present Route 628 could be dead-ended just past the public school complex, so that all non-school related traffic would use the alternate Route 628, turning in off Route 15 across from Lowe's.

Or the current Route 628-Route 15 intersection could be permanently blocked and all traffic-school and non-school-would use the alternate Route 628 entrance the County will build off Route 15 at the traffic signal near Lowe's.

In this alternative, school related traffic would continue down the new Route 628 into the public school complex, rather than the current steady stream of non-school related vehicles. Doing this would have the added safety benefit of ending the need of buses and cars coming off the by-pass from having to turn right and then quickly left and across three lanes of traffic to be able to turn left into the public school complex.

If development does occur down Route 628 beyond the public school complex, remember, the amount of traffic-heavy construction equipment, the delivery of building materials and supplies, along with construction workers-will increase greatly.

As will the danger.

Whether development occurs down Route 628 or not, Prince Edward County already has all the reason it needs to avert a tragedy before it occurs:

The children of Prince Edward County.

The danger is clear and present.

But so are the solutions.

Proceed with all speed.