By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Laura Easter has been trying to put a stop to truck traffic on Highland Road since 2009. It looked like her fight was over in 2011, but now she finds herself back at square one.
Pulaski County Board of Supervisors voted following a public hearing April 25, 2011 to prohibit trucks weighing in excess of 10 tons on Highland Road on either side of Neck Creek Bridge, which has a 10-ton weight limit. The only exception is for trucks making a delivery or being operated by a resident of the road.
Even though the hearing was held and a vote taken, the signs were never posted. Now, a Virginia Department of Transportation official has asked the county to schedule another public hearing for later this month to ensure procedures have been properly followed for prohibiting through truck traffic.
Residency Maintenance Manager David Clarke told the board last week locations for the signs have been approved, but they were never ordered because of discrepancies over what the signs should say. He said VDOT wasn’t sure whether they were to say that truck traffic is “not recommended” for the road, or “prohibited” on the road. He said he would “like to start the process over” to make sure everything is handled correctly.
Before a road can be closed to through truck traffic, Clarke said a public hearing must be advertised and held. The advertisement must include an alternate route for affected truckers to use.
County Administrator Peter Huber suggested truck traffic be prohibited on Highland Road between Routes 100 and 617. “It’ll probably do truckers and VDOT a favor because of the weight limits on the bridge and there will be less wear and tear on the bridge,” he added.
Huber pointed out the prohibition signs have to be posted before law enforcement will be able to ticket truckers for using the road.
Massie District Supervisor Andy McCready said he would like to see the matter addressed quickly, noting, “This has gone on quite some time and (Easter’s) not the first (citizen) to be here (about the same issue) in my short time on the board.”
Several residents of Highland Road have requested the truck prohibition, saying they are using the road as a shortcut and often choosing to drive over Neck Creek Bridge rather than turn around. The bridge is traveled by school buses and residents are concerned that its condition is deteriorating due to use by truck traffic exceeding the weight limit.
Easter and her husband said they also have had to help many trucks get turned around on the narrow road when they encounter the bridge and are too heavy to cross.
In 2011, Clarke said signs warning of the 10-ton weight limit should have been sufficient to prohibit large truck traffic from using Highland Road. However, signage prohibiting through truck traffic in excess of 10 tons, should stop truck traffic from passing over the bridge, he added.
While the posting would not prohibit trucks from making deliveries on Highland Road, they would have to access the delivery address without crossing the bridge.
After the 2011 vote, Clarke indicated the next step was for the prohibition to be sent to the Virginia Transportation Board for approval.