Can Monroe Church Road be fixed? VDOT, residents have ideas

Published 1:29 am Friday, July 14, 2023

Residents of Monroe Church Road in Rice want some changes. The road narrows in places from Reservoir Road to Green Bay Road, causing some people to be run off the road when large trucks use it. It also has several blind curves, making things a problem for anyone biking, walking or even going to check their mail in certain spots. 

Residents want the speed limit dropped, but Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials say it’s not that simple. Julia Maserjian is one of those residents. She and her husband moved to Rice a year ago and she said the road’s been a problem the whole time. Maserjian is one of the people who have been run off the road by larger or quicker vehicles driving through the narrow road. 

“With the number of residences, rentals and businesses on Monroe Church Road, I believe the road should be designated as a business and residential area, with a speed limit appropriate for that designation,” Maserjian said. 

Let’s talk about speed limits 

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As an unmarked rural road, the speed limit now is 45 mph for trucks and 55 mph for cars. To get that number reduced, VDOT requires a few things. First, you have to ask for a speed study to be done, which Prince Edward County supervisors did in August of 2021. Then, over a period of time, VDOT officials decide if that request merits a full study. That first request in 2021 was shot down by VDOT officials in Richmond, who decided Monroe Church Road didn’t warrant a speed study. And so, Scott Frederick tried something different. Frederick works as the regional VDOT engineer for Prince Edward and the surrounding areas. 

He asked the state to consider Monroe Church Road as part of the “rural rustic road” program. Created in 2002, the Rural Rustic Road (RRR) concept was set up by the General Assembly as a way to classify and pave rural, low traffic roads. It’s basically taking the rural roads of the Commonwealth and putting them into one group, to draw from a specific pot of money. 

“The rural rustic program takes a gravel road and paves it to keep people out of the dust and the mud,” Frederick said. 

One more benefit for Monroe Church Road

But there’s another benefit, one that directly impacts Monroe Church Road. During its 2008 session, the Assembly added another rule. In order to be part of the RRR project, a road can’t have a speed limit higher than 35 mph. Once VDOT studies Frederick’s request, if they make Monroe Church Road part of the RRR system, by law the speed limit will have to drop. 

“Coming out of that study, I’m hopeful we’ll sign it for 35 mph,” Frederick said. 

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors, Frederick was also asked about trucks, if there was a way to remove them from the road. He said yes, but it’ll take some time and a request from the county. 

“I think Green Bay Road is a much better road for (truck) traffic,” Frederick said. But he pointed out as of now, Monroe Church Road is open and unrestricted. To get that changed, the county has to ask VDOT to take a look. 

“They would have to request for VDOT to study it, and if we decide it’s appropriate, we would sign it for no trucks,” Frederick said. “But it would require (supervisors) to take action and (specifically) request it for no trucks.” 

He told people not to even consider asking for the same with cars coming in. 

“It’s a public highway,” Frederick said. “We can’t keep cars out.” 

What happens next? 

Supervisors unanimously agreed to make a request to restrict trucks from driving on Monroe Church Road. The staff will put together a resolution and present it for a vote at the group’s August meeting. As for the VDOT study, considering if the road should be added to the state’s RRR program, there’s no timeframe to receive an answer.