No truck restrictions for Monroe Church Road

Published 3:11 am Thursday, October 12, 2023

There will be no truck restrictions on Monroe Church Road, at least not in the immediate future. Prince Edward supervisors declined to make the request to the state, when it came up for a vote Tuesday night. 

Monroe Church Road narrows in places from Reservoir Road to Green Bay Road, dropping to 16,17 feet across at points. It also has several blind curves, making things a problem for anyone biking, walking or even going to check their mail in certain spots. That’s led several residents to request changes this year. They asked for and received a reduced speed limit. They also asked for tractor trailers and other large trucks to be banned from the road, because of the issues mentioned above. But after hearing from regional Virginia Department of Transportation engineer Scott Frederick, supervisors declined to move forward. The reason, as Frederick explained, is that first of all, a ban wouldn’t change much. 

“Even if you were to restrict it, trucks would still deliver to Sandy River, trash trucks would still come down the road and go to the reservoir,” Frederick said. “There’s still some vehicles where even if you restrict trucks, they’ll still go down the road.” 

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The reservoir trash has to be collected, he pointed out. And deliveries have to be made to Sandy River Distillery. Those things won’t change. He also said the number of trucks using the road, and the number of vehicles overall, is fairly small. In 2019, 400 vehicles used the road each day. In 2021, during the pandemic, that dropped to 270. Last year’s numbers haven’t been released yet, Frederick said, but he expects it to be along the same lines. 

What would be solved? 

There’s also been very few actual accidents reported there. Since 2020, there have been two. One was at the intersection with U.S. 696, as a failure to yield right of way. One driver just pulled out in front of another. The second, in 2021, was a single car accident, written up as failure to maintain lane. With very few accidents and not that many trucks using the road to begin with, Frederick didn’t see how banning or restricting vehicles would solve anything. 

Instead, Frederick believes the recent change of reducing the speed limit would have the biggest impact, to achieve what residents want. 

Other Prince Edward residents said some of the folks on Monroe Church Road contribute to the problem. 

“I’ve almost been blown off the road, sometimes by residents,” said Kenneth Jackson. “Some of your residents aren’t the nicest people when it comes to driving.” 

Jackson pointed out that there’s one problem, when it comes to speed limits, truck bans or any other decision.  

“You have to have people there to enforce it,” he told supervisors. 

Waiting on a speed study 

As mentioned earlier, the speed limit has been reduced down to 35 mph temporarily on Monroe Church Road. Previously it was 45 mph for trucks and 55 mph for cars. Frederick is working to make that permanent. But first, he needs a full speed study. 

This is actually the second time Prince Edward officials have asked for a speed study. The first request in 2021 was shot down by VDOT officials in Richmond, who decided Monroe Church Road was fine as is. And so, Frederick is trying something different this time around. 

This time, he’s asking 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.

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. And so, the speed limit is set at 35 mph while VDOT considers a full study.

What about widening Monroe Church Road? 

In addition to speed limit reductions, Supervisor Bill Jenkins asked if it would be possible to widen Monroe Church Road, expanding out to make it easier for drivers. Frederick said being 15 feet across doesn’t really make the road special, because there are a lot of secondary roads in the area that are the same size. And while it would be possible to widen Monroe Church Road, it’s not at the top of the line.
“We’re being strategic about (widening roads) with the funding we have available,” Frederick said. “We’re currently widening Abeline Road. The next (widening) we’re going to do is Meherrin Road. Certainly we could talk about (widening Monroe), but it’s costly and we have a limited budget.”
Frederick also pointed out if you widen the road, there’s a good chance drivers will ignore that speed limit, especially if there’s no law enforcement around.
“If we widen it, I would assume speed will increase,” Frederick said.
With the board’s Tuesday decision to do nothing, now it’s just a waiting game to see if Monroe Church Road gets approved for the speed study. There’s no timeframe as to when a decision might be made on that.