Posted by: project151 | November 15, 2007

Media Watch : Opinion column from Lynchburg News & Advance

Virginia 151 Residents Are Still Waiting
Lynchburg News & Advance
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One of the most common complaints about government at all levels – local, state and federal – is that it is too slow in responding to the needs or desires of its citizens. Getting government to move on a given subject is often like pushing a 50,000-ton battleship with a canoe. It’s impossible.

A good example of this can be found in the aftermath of last August’s fatalities on Virginia 151 in Nelson County. A tragic accident that killed a mother and her two daughters unleashed a public outcry about the unsafe conditions on the two-lane highway used by trucks as a shortcut between Interstate 64 and U.S. 29. A cargo truck had slammed into the rear of the car in which the victims were traveling.

Residents who live along the highway called on the state to take several moves to make the road safer. They proposed a ban on the through trucks – mostly tractor-trailers – that use the narrow, curvy road to shave off miles between the U.S. 29 corridor and I-64. They proposed lowering the speed limit on portions of the road from 55 mph to 50 mph, especially near dangerous intersections.

And they called on the state to add a left-turn lane at the intersection of Virginia 151 and Virginia 635, the site of the fatal accident.

In the meantime, there have been reports of several accidents on the highway in the past three months, including at least one other fatality.

So what exactly has been accomplished in that same time period to make the highway safer for those who live along it and have to use it to travel to work and to run daily errands?

Nothing. The Board of Supervisors has moved safety on Virginia 151 to the top of its list of primary road concerns. But that has not brought about any actual improvements to safety. The supervisors have also neglected to call on the state transportation board to ban through trucks from using the highway. Such a request appears to be a bureaucratic necessity before the state can move toward that ban.

Nelson County Administrator Steve Carter and Supervisor Tommy Harvey met with the Commonwealth Transportation Board in Lynchburg last week to ask the state to add the left-turn lane at the intersection with Virginia 635. They also asked about the possibility of lowering the speed limit along parts of the road to 50 mph.

Neither official made mention of the proposed ban on through trucks. And no one else showed up at the meeting to address that issue. The state board was to use the comments it received at the hearing to set a project list for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

So with no public comment relating to banning the through trucks and no request from the supervisors, that proposal appears to be dead. A local VDOT administrator, in fact, said that the through trucks are no longer an issue.

Really? What was once considered a major problem, then, has evaporated into no problem at all.

What about lowering the speed limit? Nothing has occurred there, either. That’s because the supervisors have not asked VDOT to make a formal speed study. Progress is measured by yet another time-consuming government study.

So despite the public outcry over the potentially unsafe conditions on Virginia 151 in Nelson County, no action has been taken to change any aspect of the way traffic moves on the highway.

Is that government responding to the needs of the people? How long will it take before another fatal accident nudges government from its lethargy? Six months, a year? The folks on 151 are still waiting.

Project 151 appreciates the opinion of the Lynchburg editor and couldn’t agree more, don’t think we could add a thing.

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