I was happy to read Mr. Marshall’s piece in the October Crozet Gazette, “No Hope Soon for Traffic Relief.” However, I kept hoping for driver behavior, traffic safety and enforcement to somehow be woven into this very important local news story. It is important to understand that traffic congestion cannot be addressed without factoring in the subsequent behavior changes and resulting need for more consistent enforcement of traffic laws, without which our community safety is at great risk.
There is the increasing inconvenience of congestion, but the more consequential danger of failing to address speed limits has been overlooked or ignored. In the few years I have regularly traveled on Jarmans Gap road to Greenwood, I rarely see law enforcement and have never seen anyone stopped for any traffic infractions like speeding or, having noticed the growing piles of trash along this road—throwing liquor and beer containers out their vehicle windows. Why have laws and speed limits if they rarely if ever get enforced?
I am a more recent resident of Crozet, having only lived here for four years. I have noticed the very consistent increase in development of housing and retail businesses, all resulting in the increase in population and the derogatory impact of traffic, and, at times, vehicle congestion. This has caused drivers to find other ways around the Crozet downtown corridor and it often appears that they are very frustrated and in a hurry. Some of the roads that have experienced an increase in traffic and speeding are Jarmans Gap to Greenwood, including Half Mile Branch and Lanetown Road and the additional ‘cut-through’ route of residential Old Trail Drive. These roads represent a way to avoid the more congested bottleneck of Jarmans where it joins Crozet Avenue. Further from town, there has also been an undeniable increase in traffic and pedestrian activity on Jarmans with the growing seasonal attraction of Chiles Orchard, which now includes tasting rooms for a winery and a cidery. As a result, there are even more pedestrians, including families often with small children, walking along the road and crossing it. I fear this, along with the existing 40 mph limit that is exceeded by many drivers, is an incredibly unsafe stage for an accident—with tragedy in the wings.
I originally intended to circulate a petition to change the speed limit on Jarmans from the posted 40 mph to 30, and ask for a stop sign at Jarmans where it intersects with Lanetown Road/Half Mile Branch. I have seen numerous close calls at this intersection and was recently almost hit there while riding my bike. It makes no sense to have a posted 25 mph limit on Jarmans where it is wide with shoulders including bike lanes, and then to increase the speed limit as it heads west where the road narrows and involves dangerous curves AND becomes a part of a national bike route—route 76. I have taken the time to talk with residents along these roads and have realized that I am not alone in my observations and thinking. This was my initial motivation to start a petition. However, when I recently called the VDOT to inquire about submitting a petition with signatures, I was told that I merely needed to make the request by phone. I was called back a day later by a representative from the VDOT and told that they had already recently studied the road safety concerns that I had reported and that they felt that there was no need and they had no plan to add a stop sign or lower the posted speed limit.
I bike and drive on these roads almost every day and observe drivers traveling at speeds that are obviously above the posted limit. I strongly feel that something needs to be done before a tragedy that could be averted strikes our community. If other Crozet residents feel the same, I encourage them to call the VDOT customer service line at 1-800-367-7623 and ask that they lower the speed limit to 30 MPH from 40 MPH—at least up to the stop sign in Greenwood, AND install a four-way stop at Jarmans where it intersects Lanetown/Half Mile Branch. Although we may be unable to hold back “progress” and the continued development in Crozet that will invariably lead to traffic congestion, we should all insist on keeping our community safe for everyone who lives and travels here for the beauty and increasingly attractive opportunities that Crozet provides.
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