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Fishers Gap truck traffic causes concern

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Residents of Grayson County community worry that heavy trucks are using road not built for their weight or speed

By Shaina Stockton

By LARRY CHAMBERS & SHAINA STOCKTON, Staff

INDEPENDENCE – The Grayson County Board of Supervisors conducted a public hearing at its May 10 meeting, regarding truck traffic on Fishers Gap Road.

The hearing was set to receive public comments on a proposal to prohibit through truck traffic on Fishers Gap, south of Galax, with an alternate route on Edmonds Road and Route 89.

Several truck drivers attended the meeting to listen to the comments, but none of them spoke.

One citizen said that Fishers Gap Road is too narrow to handle truck traffic and the trucks now using the road are tearing up the pavement.

Fishers Gap Road runs from Meadow Creek Road at Mount Vale Church to Edmonds Road. It has a posted speed limit of 40 mph.

Another citizen said several trucks are using Fishers Gap Road as a shortcut to Grayson Quarry, which is located on the Edmonds Road end of the road.

Mitch Smith, deputy county administrator, said the quarry had moved its entrance from Edmonds Road to Fishers Gap Road, which put more trucks on Fishers Gap.

Oldtown District Supervisor Kenneth Belton, who represents the area in question, pointed out that the county’s trash trucks, cattle trucks and other trucks use Fishers Gap on a regular basis.

It was also the opinion of Jeffery Russell, resident highway engineer for Grayson County, that the road was not conducive to heavy truck traffic.

County Administrator Bill Shepley read an e-mail from Brian Reedy, who lives on Fishers Gap and favors, “prohibiting the use of all large trucks... from Meadow Creek Road to Edmonds Road for the safety of the residents and other vehicles on the road.”

In his e-mail, Reedy also stated his concerns about dump trucks that use Fishers Gap.

“I realize when a delivery of gravel or other material has to be delivered to a residence on Fishers Gap Road, truck use cannot be avoided,” Reedy wrote. “However, there is a major use of this road on a daily basis as a ‘short cut’ from the quarry to Route 89, especially by two certain truck owners.”

Reedy said the road is not wide enough and is not paved to a depth to handle the constant use of trucks weighing 20 tons or more. “These trucks have torn up the shoulders of the pavement and created sunken places where culverts and drainage pipes cross under the road. The trucks that do use this road, which is narrow and unlined, drive too fast for the blind hill and blind curves.”

Numerous times, Reedy wrote, he has met trucks “driving in the middle of the road or ‘hogging’ the road over the blind hill near my driveway.”

Another problem he noted is that the narrow, unmarked Fishers Gap has a speed limit of 40 mph and the much wider, well-marked Edmonds Road has a speed limit of 35 mph.

“Since troopers patrol Edmonds Road very often, it is easier to drive faster on the narrow Fishers Gap Road. It is my opinion that the Edmonds Road speed limit should be raised to 45 mph,” and through truck traffic prohibited.

I have lived just off this road for over 25 years and speeding vehicles and large trucks have always been a problem that needs to be taken care of,” Reedy said.

Supervisors Chairwoman Brenda Sutherland said no action would be taken after she closed the hearing, pending further discussion.

Discussions returned to Fisher’s Gap during the county board’s May 15 budget workshop session.

Belton suggested leaving the road as it is, but requested that the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office keep an eye on the area and continue enforcing the speed limit.

“Since this came up, I must’ve had 25 conversations with truck drivers,” Belton said, noting that he couldn’t see barring truck drivers from the same area where garbage trucks and school buses are allowed. “I think we should just enforce the speed limit, and let these boys do their jobs.”

Supervisor Mike Hash asked if it was possible to conduct a speed study of the area, to see if a speed limit reduction was necessary.

The two suggestions were put to a vote, and approved unanimously by the board.

A public hearing on the six-year Grayson County state secondary road plan was also held during the board’s May meeting.

Several citizens attended the hearing to ask for paving or other improvements to their roads, while others thanked the Virginia Department of Transportation for making improvements to their roads.

Russell answered questions from the audience.

Other Action

• The supervisors, at the request of County Administrator William Shepley, voted to approve the re-dedication of funds.

Shepley asked the board to approve the re-designation of an inactive fund (Fund 501) to a fund restricted to the tracking of program income derived from the Eagle Bottom Housing Project.

The monies collected in this fund will be restricted to uses set forth in the Community Development Block Grant Program Income Plan.

Shepley also asked that the fund designated as the School Bus Replacement Fund (Fund 159) be re-designated as the School Capital Improvement Fund.

He requested that the school system’s fiscal year 2017 carryover of $221,252 — previously approved as future school capital improvement funds — be transferred to the new fund “in order to more clearly track funds set aside for the school.”

• Sandie Terry of Rural Broadband Consulting made a presentation.

• Chairman Sandra Troth of the Grayson County Senior Advocacy Committee made a presentation. The report will be passed on to the Grayson County Planning Commission to be used in the 5-year plan.