Speed limit won’t change

Published 6:48 pm Monday, September 26, 2016

Citing state laws, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently denied a request by the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors to lower the speed limit on Route 604 (Abilene Road). VDOT Resident Engineer Scot Shippee said the laws only allow VDOT to alter speed limits, and only after an engineering investigation.

Supervisors made the request during their Sept. 13 board meeting, but it was not the first time Route 604 had been discussed.

Shippee said previously performed traffic engineering studies on Route 604 did not support a reduction in speed limit. VDOT conducted the most recent formal study in August 2011, concluding a speed change was not needed. The study evaluated the section of Route 604 between Route 671 (County Line Road) to just .3 miles south of Route 665 (Darlington Heights Road). According to the documents from the study, it was conducted at the request of concerned Route 604 residents Henry Darling and Fred Miller.

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During the Sept. 13 meeting, Supervisor Odessa Pride, who represents the 401 Hampden District, which includes Route 604, encouraged VDOT to reconsider the speed limit, despite prior rulings and studies. She asked why Douglas Church Road has a 45 mph speed designation despite having 100 vehicles fewer daily.

501 Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. agreed with Pride and asked, “As a board, can we just say we want that at 45 mph?” Timmons said the road is developing with houses, as well as increasing in traffic, and called it “a serious problem.”

“If the date is correct … then why has nothing happened?” 301 Leigh District Supervisor Jerry R. Townsend asked.

During the meeting. Shippee said he would look into the question. Later, Shippee confirmed the board does not have the power to make the decision.

When asked about whether VDOT will conduct further traffic studies, Shippee said the the most recent traffic engineering review, dated May 13, concluded “there were no significant changes in road conditions, traffic volumes or roadside development since then.”

“Unless those conditions change, I would not anticipate another study being performed,” he said.

According to the May review, the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) publication recorded  1,700 vehicles on Route 604 per day. It indicated that between March 1, 2013, and Feb. 29, 2016, 15 crashes occurred, resulting in eight injuries and $108,7000 in property damage.

Pride argued the number of accidents should dictate a speed limit alteration to reduce future crashes.

“It appears that a significant number of these crashes were due to weather and/or poor driver behavior,” Shippee countered, “and are not directly related to the existing statutory 55 mph speed limit.”