Residents voice Mountain Road safety concerns

Posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 10:56 am

A Hanover highway is back in the limelight after two vehicles collided in a serious wreck earlier this month.

Feb. 1, a westbound Ford Taurus, with no passengers, that crossed over the line and struck a tow truck head-on along Mountain Road near Ashland Road, said Lt. Chris Whitley of the Hanover Sheriff’s Office. Whitley said shortly after the crash, the tow truck, which was heading east at the time of the wreck, caught on fire and both the driver and passenger were seriously injured. All three individuals in the wreck were taken to the hospital. The investigation is ongoing and charges are in the works, Whitley said.

Montpelier resident Juanita Marchetti, 80, drives along this section of Mountain Road frequently. She often worries about breaking down on the highway because she drives an older car.

“You only have two lanes and nowhere to pull over,” Marchetti said.

One time, Marchetti said she got a flat tire driving down Route 33 a few blocks from her house on her way back from the Hanover Courthouse area.

“Luckily I found a little store to pull over,” she said.

Marchetti ended up being able to call AAA and get help. But having nowhere to pull over is not her only concern. With only two lanes in a rural area, motorists often surpass the speed limit. Marchetti said she also ends up going over the limit to keep up with other drivers.

“My lord, they’re passing even on the solid lanes,” she said.

Her daughter, Debra, can’t drive at the moment, so Juanita often runs all the errands for the two. Debra said she’s concerned about her mom driving on that road, especially after the most recent accident.

In effort to fix the problem, the Marchettis said they have contacted the county and Virginia Department of Transportation about Route 33 and urge them to extend the lanes.

But Joe Vidunas, county traffic engineer, said there are no current plans for widening the road. The last time it was proposed was in the early 2000s when one of Juanita’s relatives advocated for it.

The $40 million-project would have extended Route 33 or Mountain Road from two lanes to four.

“It was pulled before it even got started,” Vidunas said.

At that time, transportation funds were decreasing and the state started picking off projects, he said.

Between 2003 and 2004, Vidunas said a shoulder was added to Route 33 and he believes the amount of accidents dropped because of the project.

There are also two other projects in the works at various intersections along Mountain Road.

One project took place at the intersection of Mountain Road and Route 54, where Virginia Department of Transportation built two cul-de-sacs and realigned lanes with the intention of making traffic flow smoothly and the location safer.

Another project at the intersection of Route 33 and Ashland Road that would make the site safer is currently in the design phase.

VDOT’s $7.6 million plan would create left and right turn lanes near the location of the early February crash, said Communications Coordinator Lindsay LeGrand.

LeGrand said the construction should start in late 2016 and finish by mid-2017.

Although the initial project for extending the number of lanes on Mountain Road is old at this point, the Marchettis said they hope more precautions will be taken so they can run errands safely.

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