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VDOT wants big trucks to stay unstuck

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Two road-related public hearings have been scheduled for the May 11 meeting of the Carroll Board of Supervisors.

One hearing will be for the secondary road construction budget for 2010, and the second will seek input on placing restrictions on Virginia 620 on Lambsburg Mountain to keep tractor-trailers from getting stuck there.

Bob Beasley, resident administrator of the Virginia Department of Transportation office in Hillsville, approached county supervisors about the need for hearings on these two topics at their April meeting.

The person who raised the problem of tractor-trailers getting stuck on Lambsburg Mountain with VDOT was Virginia State Police First Sgt. Mike Musser, Beasley explained.

It’s a problem that’s existed for years, he said. Tractor-trailers from Interstate 77 try to make it through two curves that double back on themselves and get stuck because no big rig can physically negotiate them.

So, Beasley went to the traffic engineers, reviewed the signs that are there now and tried to find ways to resolve the situation without putting restrictions on the road.

The signs there now basically say tractor-trailers are not recommended beyond a certain point, and initially VDOT officials felt they could put up new signs.

But when the lawyers got involved, they said the only legal and effective way to do this is to restrict truck traffic, Beasley said.

Tractor-trailers usually get stuck when drivers “are generally using the GPS systems that tell them if they get off of I-77, they can go this route and they can save 10 minutes,” he said. “Obviously, they’ve got a 1,500-foot vertical there that the truck has to climb that they don’t realize.”

Truckers probably use Lambsburg Mountain as a shortcut only once before learning that hard lesson, he said. The bill to pull a rig out must be substantial.

This probably happens to a tractor-trailer once every two to three months, he estimated.

In a way, physical limitations on tractor-trailers getting around those two curves means that big rigs already can’t get up the mountain, he said. “It’s simply to try and save these folks from themselves and convince them that this is really not a way they should take that tractor-trailer.”

An alternative for tractor-trailer traffic would send them onto Virginia 775. Beasley asked the supervisors to set a public hearing date on the matter.

Supervisors’ Chairman David Hutchins said there’s a safety issue there, as a stuck tractor-trailer could block emergency vehicles.

Supervisor Tom Littrell saw a tanker on Lambsburg Mountain that had been directed by the trucking company to take that route.

The supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Wes Hurst to hold the public hearing at the regular May meeting.

Beasley then moved on to the secondary road improvement plan, which due to state budget shortfalls only has funding for two projects \ and both of those are improvements to Virginia 620 at Exit 19.

It’s a lean year, Beasley said. Since there are only two projects on the list, he suggested having an abbreviated public hearing on 2010 road construction budget.

“I just think it’s somewhat disappointing to the citizens and to the folks if we held a public hearing and they came in to express their needs and wishes and there’s simply no money in the till,” he said “I don’t know what would be gained by that exercise.”

The supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Sam Dickson to hold the abbreviated public hearing May 11.