Buckingham neighbors upset over rise in crashes at this intersection

Posted at 9:02 AM, Jul 05, 2024

BUCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va.-- Country roads make Buckingham residents feel right at home, including 70-year-olds Shelton and Margaret Johnson, who’ve lived in the rural county west of Richmond all their lives.

"It's a beautiful place," said Shelton. “I know just about everyone who lives in Buckingham, you know it's calmness and it’s peaceful."

But that peace on a route the Johnsons travel often has been disrupted.

"I can't see right there, and it make you nervous," Shelton explained.

They’re talking about the intersection of Route 60 and Route 632 in Dillwyn.

"It's pretty dangerous for those of us who live here and constantly come through this road, and especially for those who are not familiar with the road," noted Margaret.

Buckingham County Supervisor Cameron Gilliam has been passionate about making this crossing safer since he was elected to the board in 2022.

"In the last two years, we probably had 10 to 12 accidents here," Gilliam noted.

In 2022, he and Buckingham County EMS staff started reaching out to the Virginia Department of Transportation for help.

VDOT engineer Scott Frederick and his team started studying the intersection in 2022, after injuries and crashes here skyrocketed.

"The traffic has increased a lot on these back roads," said Margaret.

From 2006 to 2019, VDOT says there were 8 crashes with 5 injuries and no deaths, but since 2020, there have been 12 crashes, 29 injuries, and two people have been killed.

"That is something that we don't want to represent," Margaret expressed.

In May 2024, a Longwood University student was med flighted after a crash at the intersection. That same month Supervisor Gilliam and the board met with VDOT.

"I’ve asked you 4 to 5 times to address this," Gilliam told Frederick during that meeting. "I asked you one time in private, and I told you somebody was going to get killed or someone was going to get sued." Gilliam went on to say, "All I’m asking you is please don’t let another life or someone get hurt Mr. Frederick because it could have been my daughter or your daughter."

Over the next few weeks, VDOT spokesperson Len Stevens says the agency took additional steps to improve the intersection, including installing 48-inch stop signs, cutting back overgrowth and adding rumble strips.

"We've put a real focus on this area," Stevens explained."

Still, less than one month later on June 10th, a 60-year-old Fredericksburg woman lost her life after failing to stop at the crossing.

"That is one thing that you don't want to predict and be right," said Gilliam. "I remember it was Father's Day, I got that call that afternoon on Father's Day. And I was like, what else could I have done?"

The speed limit approaching the intersection is 55 miles per hour in both directions, but Supervisor Gilliam and the Johnsons say drivers on Route 632 are still having trouble seeing the stop sign.

"The secondary roads need to be cut back," said Shelton. "So we can see up to up the main highways, we cannot see."

"Sometimes vegetation can grow up very quickly and kind of surprise us a little bit," said Stevens. "Although we do always trim back vegetation."

The Buckingham couple is also concerned about the new rumble strips that VDOT says are standard.

"Speed bumps should be to the point where they almost stop you," explained Margaret.

From the outside, you can clearly hear when a car drives over the strips, but inside a car, going close to 55 miles per hour, it's more difficult.

"Just a little bump in the road," said Shelton.

"If you wanted to and saw something was there, you can actually straddle that," Supervisor Gilliam explained.

The Sheltons and Supervisor Gilliam believe reducing the speed limit on Route 602 and adding a flashing solar light could help lower the crashes.

"Is anything the value of a life?," asked Gilliam. "No matter if you live in Lynchburg, the city of Richmond, a Buckingham life is as important as anybody else."

"We want safe roads and safe intersections, so all of that feedback is very important," said Stevens.

Regardless of where you live, if you pass this intersection, the Johnsons want to be sure you can make it home.

"We just want a little bit more to be done to alert people," said Margaret.

VDOT adds last week, a property owner in the area donated some of their land on both sides of Route 632 to allow the agency to cut back the brush even further because they too want to see the intersection improved.

That work is set to begin next week.

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