Fauquier truckers unhappy with Opal interchange
RCS Trucking & Freight CEO/President Robert Sturgeon said the proposed pulloff area for truckers wanting to merge on southbound U.S. 17 is a safety hazard waiting to happen. Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The new Opal interchange at U.S. 29 and U.S. 17 will not open by the end of the week thanks to a potential safety issue revealed by a local business owner.
The Virginia Department of Transportation was hoping to open the new southbound ramp off 29 to southbound 17 by the end of August.
But that's not going to be possible now that RCS Trucking & Freight CEO/President Robert Sturgeon highlighted a safety hazard for trucks leaving his business.
With the company's location on the west side of U.S. 17 near the intersection at 29, trucks leaving the property have to turn right because there is no break in the median.
According to Sturgeon, truckers must funnel into a tiny service lane as they approach the endpoint of the new interchange, which will dump southbound traffic from U.S. 29 onto 17 a half mile past his business. They then must come to a complete stop at a stop sign before merging into traffic onto 17, said Sturgeon.
"They [RCS trucks] are not allowed to make u-turns," Sturgeon said of his company policy. "...Our vehicles are 80 feet long and weigh 40 tons. It takes a long time to get up to speed."
Sturgeon said at first, he thought the service lane was only for construction traffic. When he realized it wasn't, he knew the merging of his trucks into oncoming through traffic would be a nightmare scenario waiting to happen.
"If they don't come up with a solution, there will be serious safety issues," Sturgeon said. "And it will limit my business and the kinds of things I am able to haul because I will be limited on how I get in and out of this location."
Last week, Sturgeon met with Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st, Cedar Run Supervisor Lee Sherbeyn and VDOT officials to see what can be done to remedy the situation.
VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said Wednesday the $44.6 million project will not have to be totally redesigned but that the area in question will be re-examined to see how "to meet [Sturgeon's] needs and the needs of everybody else using the road."
For the complete story, pick up a copy of today's Fauquier Times.
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