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RICHMOND — State transportation officials have worked out a plan to allow Carroll County school buses to use southbound U.S. 52, without having to pass legislation to do it, according to Del. Anne B. Crockett-Stark.
“I worked with [Virginia Department of Transportation] on my House Bill 1416, which would have allowed school buses to travel south on Route 52 down Fancy Gap Mountain,” the Republican from Wytheville reported in a General Assembly update. “We were able to reach that goal without legislation, and school buses will be able to travel that route this coming fall.”
Representatives of VDOT recently asked Carroll school officials to drive a bus south on 52, Carroll Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship told The Gazette. The transportation officials followed the bus in a van with video cameras and other high tech gear.
What the transportation officials saw convinced them that there are no problems with the school buses taking 52 south, the superintendent said.
The change won’t happen until the fall to give VDOT time to install appropriate signs, Blankenship said.
The weight limit and its application to other vehicles for U.S. 52 will remain in place, he added. The action on the school buses comes in the form of a waiver for those vehicles alone.
“It’s just going to give us another option and some better ways to get our kids home,” Blankenship said.
Enacting the waiver in the fall will give the school transportation supervisor a chance to redraw routes. Blankenship said that school officials will have a discussion about whether they should send all the buses south on 52.
He ventured a guess that most parents in the Southern Carroll area would prefer that the buses use 52.
Educators have noted that school buses already travel on such crooked roads as Bent Mountain and Lovers Leap Mountain, which are arguably more challenging than U.S. 52.
Lisa Hughes, the VDOT administrator over Carroll County, shared the resolution amending the weight limit for buses with The Gazette. (A copy of the resolution can be dowloaded at the link following this article.)
The study looked at whether the school bus could stay in its lane and handle the curves and the grade.
The resolution notes that the weight restrictions originally date back to October 1980, due to “a high number of runaway truck accidents attributable to drivers of heavy trucks losing control of their vehicles on the steep grade c. six of which resulted in fatalities and many others in injuries,” it said.
The resolution to let school buses operate on 52 in Fancy Gap has been signed by Commissioner Gregory Whirley.
“Administratively, it’s been approved,” Hughes noted.
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