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Schools seek new bus stop safety signs

Concerns voiced over safety of school children

by Larry S. Chowning

State Route 619 (Healy’s Road) near Locust Hill
Three county residents, Lewis C. Briggs, Purnell Wood and Hope Burke, voiced concern to the Middlesex County School Board on September 14 with regards to bus routes and the positioning of bus stops on State Route 619 (Healy’s Road) near Locust Hill.

For several months now, Briggs and Wood, on behalf of some Healy’s Road residents, have been telling the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, local school officials and VDOT officials of the dangers that exist on Healy’s Road.

There are no speed limit signs or lane markings on the narrow road.

Briggs and Wood want a total facelift of the road, and want it to be included in the county’s six-year plan to upgrade secondary roads.

Healy’s Road has carried more traffic since 2006 when a portion of Stormont Road at Healy’s Mill Pond was closed by VDOT officials.

“Parents have a concern for the safety of their children standing along the side of this narrow road waiting for a school bus,” Wood told school officials. “Are you going to wait and do something when a child gets killed? I hope not!”

Briggs complained that the bus stop at the corner of Philpot Road and Healy’s Road is in a dangerous spot, and that children are having to walk a long way to get to the bus stop. “These are little children walking along that road,” said Briggs. “I don’t think it’s very safe.”

Hope Burke complained that her 11-year-old daughter cannot ride the bus that stops at the intersection of Healy’s and Philpot roads because it is too dangerous for her to walk along Healy’s Road to get there. “I take my daughter to school because it’s dangerous when those cars come around that curve at fast speeds. The cars don’t slow down and there is nowhere to pull off,” she said.

Burke said a school bus used to stop at her house on Philpot Road, but two years ago the stops were discontinued. “I really would appreciate if a bus could come down our road again and by our house,” she said.

Briggs and Wood also want more and safer school bus stops on the road. They contend children have to walk along long ditch banks or in the road to get to their bus stops. They have been working with local officials to come up with a solution, but Wood said he is disappointed with the response from school officials. 

Wood indicated VDOT resident engineer Marcie Parker had been contacted earlier this year about the safety of Healy’s Road.

In response to those concerns, Parker asked Middlesex School Director of Operations John LaBrier if school officials had done a survey to determine if Healy’s Road had adequate school bus stop signs.

At the September 14 school board meeting, Wood read a portion of LaBrier’s July 10 email to Parker, in which he states that Healy’s Road had been surveyed and no new “Bus Stop Ahead signage is warranted at this time.”

Also in the email to Parker, LaBrier noted, “As is our custom, we will survey all bus routes in the first month of the new school year and notify your office of any changes in signage requirements.”

On Monday of this week, LaBrier said he asked VDOT on September 17 (three days after last week’s school board meeting) to install two new “Bus Stop Ahead” signs on Healy’s Road and one on Philpot Road.

If VDOT approves the request, the signs would be placed at 1089 Healy’s Road and 166 Healy’s Road, and at the entrance to Healy’s Trace Way on Philpot Road.

“Hopefully, motorists will see the signs and slow down as they approach the bus stops,” said LaBrier.

Parker confirmed on Monday that the three “School Bus Stop” signs had been recommended by Middlesex school officials, and the request had been sent to VDOT engineers in Fredericksburg for consideration. Parker said an answer from the engineers is expected within a few days.

Speed limit and curve warning signs also are under consideration for Healy’s Road, noted Parker.

posted 09.23.2009

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