Posted by: project151 | October 16, 2007

Media Watch : Nelson makes deadly VA-151 intersection its top priority

Nelson makes deadly VA-151 intersection its top priority
By Alicia Petska
The News Virginian
Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The site of a deadly crash that killed three people last August has jumped to the top of Nelson County’s road priorities.

Amending its six-year transportation improvement plan, which is reviewed annually, Nelson called on the state to add a left-turn lane to the intersection of Virginia 151 and Virginia 635.

That crossing – the site of an Aug. 30 collision that killed Laura Cavedo, of Afton, and her two daughters, ages 12 and 9 – was named the county’s No. 1 priority, jumping ahead of nine other projects officials have been requesting for years.

“To my knowledge, there’s been more accidents at that intersection than any other intersection in Nelson County,” North District supervisor and Rockfish Valley fire chief Tommy Harvey said of the change Monday. “On paper, that’s a safe intersection. But when you keep having accidents, boom, boom, boom, it’s time to wake up. Something’s wrong.”

The county’s request, approved by consensus last week, will next go to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which will be in Lynchburg to hear from communities throughout the region on Oct. 29.

A public hearing will be held that day at 6:30 p.m. in the Kirkley Hotel, 2900 Candler’s Mountain Road. The CTB will use the feedback it recieves to set a project list for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Last week, close to 400 Nelson County residents gathered at the Rockfish Valley Community Center for a meeting of Project 151, a grassroots group for road safety organized in the wake of the August fatalities.

More than 30 people spoke during the gathering, most expressing fear over the traffic conditions on VA-151, a heavily traveled road that spans 29 miles of the county from the Afton to Piney River areas. According to VDOT, it’s the longest arterial road in Nelson.

“My husband and I moved here because we thought it was the most beautiful, farm-like area we’d ever seen, and we thought we’d live here happily for many years,” said Olivia Ellis, of Nellysford, during the Project 151 forum. “Now we’re afraid to leave our house. You have to risk your life to get out on that blind intersection [at VA-151]. … It’s ruined our quality of life here.”

Evelyn Culver said she’s driven off the road at least three times to avoid a collision. “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I’ve cheated death a number of times,” she said.

That alarm was echoed by most of the night’s speakers, with many calling for lower speed limits and stricter law enforcement, both priorities of Project 151.

A more divisive issue, though, was through trucks, whose presence on the road has been condemned by some but defended by others.

“Everybody just needs to slow down,” said Shelby Roston, whose father was a truck driver and was also killed in an accident on VA-151 some 15 years ago. “Everybody needs to take personal responsibility for their driving.”

“You don’t cut your nose off to spite your face,” said Todd Gunter, who runs his own gravel hauling company within the county. “They [trucks] have every right to be there. They pay more road taxes than anyone else. … All I’m trying to do is make a living and support my family and I want some respect.”

Project 151 is pushing for a ban on through trucks along that highway. County staff are currently working up a proposal to submit to the Board of Supervisors, which has, by and large, expressed lackluster enthusiasm for the idea. A ban could only be enacted with the approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

In addition to the 10 priorities the county submitted in its primary road plan, officials also asked VDOT to review a 2001 study of that corridor to identify further improvements. VDOT is currently planning to hold a series of closed roundtables on the subject with stakeholders that include county officials, trucking industry leaders and Project 151 members.

With the addition of the VA-635 intersection, six of the 10 primary road priorities now center on VA-151.

Harvey said he was hopeful residents will see work start at that crossing within a year.

“VDOT’s working on this from several different angles, and we’re putting our hats in several different pots,” he said. “I have a very good feeling about it. I think you’re going to see something happen.”

“With these kids getting killed … we’ve got to do something,” he added. “Your heart bleeds for them.”

Six-year plan

Primary road points identified in Nelson County’s six-year improvement plan:

1. Virginia 151 (Rockfish Valley Highway) and Virginia 635 (Greenfield Road)

2. Virginia 60 West (Richmond Highway) and Virginia 622 (Allen’s Creek Road)

3. VA-151 and Virginia 627 (Spruce Creek Lane)

4. VA-151 and Virginia 613 (Rodes Farm Drive)

5. Virginia 56 East (James River Road) and Virginia 647 (Findlay Mountain Road)

6. Virginia 6 West (River Road) and Virginia 634 (Old Roberts Road)

7. VA-151 and VA-6 West

8. Business Route 29 (Front Street) in Lovingston

9. VA-56 in Lovingston

10. VA-151 (Patrick Henry Highway) and VA-56 (Tye Brook Highway)



  1. “You don’t cut your nose off to spite your face,” said Todd Gunter, who runs his own gravel hauling company within the county. “They [trucks] have every right to be there. They pay more road taxes than anyone else. … All I’m trying to do is make a living and support my family and I want some respect.”

    A ” professional” driver would know the odds are always against you. The highway is the most dangerous place in America.

    Reducing your odds of getting into an accident is your only defense. Not using a highway that is clearly dangerous and not designed for through truck traffic is the way you earn respect as a “professional” truck driver.

    Doing the “right” thing is not always the easiest or most profitable. The life you save may be own.

  2. […] the group has seen one success in the form of Nelson County government’s recent decision to prioritize a new turning lane at Greenfield Road. Sadly, that proposed repair comes too late for Afton resident Laura Cavedo and […]

  3. Hey TJ read your own post…

    He runs a gravel hauling company WITHIN the county.

    (He is operating local trucks not through trucks).

    I too am a trucker, I would never choose 151 as a through route. As a trucker, I think the trucks using 151 as a cut-through are idiots, there shouldn’t even have to be a law to ban them.

    Truckers don’t want to speed on 151, we just want to be able to go the speed limit, not the speed chosen for us by the slowest driver on the road.

    I also agree that passing is dangerous, but if someone is going 45 you have no choice, that is not a safe speed on that road due to the natural speed gain from gravity on the downslopes. Brakes would overheat and become unsafe by restraining a loaded truck to 45 MPH

    Another problem, if you restrict the trucks to 45, you would actually have trucks going only 25-30 up the hills because of lost momentum. The result would be ugly rear-end collisions like you see on Afton I64 from slow trucks versus fast cars.

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