By. Neil Williamson, President
Despite spending almost $8,000 on an independent traffic engineering study, Albemarle County is poised to ignore the results of the study and preparing to vote Wednesday night on closing a portion of Earlysville Road to through truck traffic.
Based on the data presented in the traffic engineering study, in the last three years, there have been zero accidents with the types of trucks Albemarle is attempting to ban. This lack of accident evidence is amazing:
Crash history was recorded and visualized via aerial imagery as shown in Figures 7 through 23. The data for these maps was obtained from a VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] database for the previous three years (2012-2015). This data includes location of the crash, the date of the accident, the time period it occurred, type of crash, and the type of vehicles involved in the crash.
Per the database, 60 crashes were recorded within the study area for the years 2012-2015. Of those crashes, 25 crashes were rear ends, accounting for 42% of all crashes. Only one truck was involved in any of the 60 crashes. This crash was a rear end incident involving the two-axle truck and two other cars. The vast majority of crashes occur traveling northbound, with just nine crashes occurring southbound. Crashes appear to be correlated to locations of entrances and sharper curves, and there is no apparent correlation with truck traffic [Emphasis added – nw]
This lack of accident evidence was not lost on Supervisor Rick Randolph (Scottsville) who in a February Board of Supervisors meeting said:
“Based on the data provided, if we shut the trucks down tomorrow and we look at the data for the next year we would see a similar number, in all probability, of accidents in similar places.”
Board Chair Liz Palmer said that she was very familiar with the road, driving it almost every day and cited that she knows horseshoe bend “very, very well” and it is scary but it is primarily cars.
The reporting on this was very clear as well:
Overall there seems to be a fairly typical number of multiple axle trucks (i.e. three or more axles) on the Earlysville Road corridor. The truck percentage does not generally exceed the typical value of 2% that is found across the state on similar facilities. Note that the 2% does not include long wheelbase two axle vehicles, such as delivery trucks including mulch trucks, fedex trucks, etc
Supervisor Brad Sheffield (Rio) made a point that the consideration of this truck closure was about more than just the traffic report. He asked staff to have additional, supplemental information available for Wednesday’s public hearing. He positioned the question as an attempt to balance the need for truck mobility and the quality of life of residents. Sheffield considered the truck closure “a start” in addressing Earlysville Road traffic concerns.
The quality of life balance should also consider the economic impact on business. This closure would not only impact larger trucks but would also prohibit landscapers and construction crews that utilize trailers for their equipment.
In the discussion, Randolph raised concerns of closing Earlysville Road to truck having a “contagion effect” resulting in other neighborhoods seeking to eliminate truck traffic from their roadways. He highlighted staff’s contention that Earlysville road lacked adequate shoulders and asked how many other roads might fit that definition.
“Route 20, 22, 231, 20 South in Scottsville. Lynchburg Road, 53; we have a series of roads that were designed for a horse and buggy”
Supervisor Norman Dill also raised the concern of setting precedent and admitted he used to drive a box truck on Earlysville Road regularly.
“It is a reflection of the widespread belief among homeowners that they have the right to restrict access to “their” community and limit other people’s property rights for their own benefit. What gives them this power? The local authority to write zoning laws for their town.”
While we have heard good discussion from several supervisors questioning the logic and rationale for Earlysville Road closure, we remained concerned that this proposal may move forward. The Free Enterprise Forum wonders if ignoring the preponderance of evidence and closing Earlysville Road to trucks might be Albemarle’s rendition of snob zoning.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County.