Some Widewater residents say they’re in constant danger of being run off the road by reckless, erratic motorists speeding through their neighborhood.
“The trucks, they’ll run you over, run you off the road,” said Bob Goffredo, who recently moved to Stafford’s Decatur Road from Long Island, N.Y. “They just don’t care,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Goffredo is referring to the steady stream of cars, car haulers, tow trucks and tractor–trailers that shoot past his driveway every day. Goffredo, and many of his neighbors, believe the trucks are doing business with a nearby automobile salvage lot on Norman Road.
The Virginia Department of Transportation reports Decatur Road carries an average of 1,900 vehicles per day between Widewater and Brent Point roads, and another 1,600 per day between Brent Point and Norman roads.
But it’s not so much the vehicle count that has residents rattled, it’s the size of some of those vehicles and the speed at which they travel.
“Just pulling out of my driveway is a nightmare,” said Goffredo. “Getting out of here, it’s crazy. It would be nice if they could put up a stop sign, at least to slow the cars down over here when we back out.”
Goffredo, who lives near the corner of Decatur and Brent Point roads, has signed a petition—along with almost 500 others—to add stop signs in the area.
That petition was launched by Paul Magner, who has lived in the 300 block of Decatur Road for 18 years.
Next month, county supervisors will decide whether to schedule a public hearing on Sept. 3 to brand the area as a “residence district,” which tacks on an additional $200 fine for speeding violations.
Since January, Stafford County deputies have conducted nearly 60 traffic stops in the area.
Magner initially began raising awareness of the issue in his neighborhood after his service dog, Philly, was struck and killed by a motorist in front of his home. Magner posted a large photograph of Philly at the spot where the dog was killed.
“They never even stopped, and that’s why I put that picture up there,” said Magner. “They’re going to have to look at him every day when they come through here.”
Magner’s petition calls for two stop signs on Decatur Road—one eastbound, one westbound—where it meets Brent Point Road.
Eugene Jansen, who has lived in the area for seven years, says traffic volume in the area is not his main concern, rather, it’s the type of vehicles that are going too fast on the narrow roads.
“In terms of traffic, it isn’t terrible—it’s just the size of these vehicles, and those guys are cruising,” said Jansen. “It’s predominantly the Pick–A–Part traffic, and to some extent, some of the construction that’s going on in Aquia Overlook.”
“These are people that are coming back here that don’t live in this community,” said Magner. “They’re going to this junkyard to get parts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday, and they’re not recognizing that this a neighborhood just like their neighborhood. They wouldn’t want me speeding through theirs, so why do they do it through mine?”
Pick–A–Part is located in the 100 block of Norman Road, and although there are no vehicle weight restrictions on the back roads leading to the sprawling scrapyard, size does matter.
“They literally do not fit in the lane,” said Jansen. “All of us move on the road a little faster than the speed limit back here, but those guys are way too big to be moving that fast.”
Some area residents also feel motorists using Aquia Harbour’s back gate as a shortcut have increased traffic.
Aquia Harbour General Manager Patricia Harmon said the gate at Titanic and Decatur roads averages only about 100 cars coming in and another 45 exiting the gated community each day, but those numbers do increase when southbound lanes of Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 are backed up.
Magner said he also sees a spike in neighborhood traffic on weekends, as motorists navigate through his neighborhood in search of the salvage yard, often times speeding.
VDOT officials say both Decatur and Norman roads were built with 9–foot travel lanes, totaling 18 feet of asphalt across. The widths of the roads do vary, however, because of the age of the pavement and other factors such as deterioration of the road’s edge, or recently built entrances, where the road may be wider.
But Magner feels the trucks hauling wrecked cars to and from the salvage yard are too big for the roads.
In late 1978, Stafford supervisors approved a rezoning and a special use permit for Douglas O. Boswell Jr.’s then-agriculturally zoned property to become an automobile salvage and recycling operation. A transfer clause stated the permit would apply only to Boswell himself, and could not be transferred to a new owner, but that was later found to be unenforceable. Since then, the permit has conveyed through four owners.
John Fields purchased the business in 2005. Fields also owns the Pick-A-Part salvage yard in Spotsylvania County.
Fields was not able to provide an accurate number of salvage trucks that travel to and from his business on a daily basis.
“We’re like a restaurant, we don’t know how many people are coming in on a Saturday or not,” Fields said.
Fields said he is very interested in the concerns of area residents, but was unaware there are safety concerns with trucks driving erratically on the roadways leading to his business.
Regarding reckless truck drivers, Fields said, “No residents have complained to me.”
Fields does agree that “people do drive fast through there,” but said, “I don’t think I’ve had an employee in the last five years get a ticket. I’m all for more signs, more safety.”
Fields also said he’s “happy to sign petitions,” or take any other actions that make the roads safer in the vicinity of his business. Fields claims he reached out to VDOT a couple of years ago with roadway safety concerns, but never received a response.
“I’m all for more signs and I’ve asked for them,” said Fields.
Magner contacted VDOT, as well, and the agency did send a traffic engineer to the area in late June to evaluate the traffic concerns of the residents. Soon after, Magner learned his request for stop signs would not be granted by the engineer.
“He said there’s not enough traffic out there,” said Magner, who said VDOT’s traffic count was conducted in the early afternoon hours and did not take into consideration the weekend traffic to and from the salvage yard, or the rush hour vehicles heading into Aquia Harbour’s back gate.
VDOT studied the intersection at Decatur and Brent Point roads and also looked at the three-year crash history, road geometry, speed limits and road signs already in place. After considering all of these factors, VDOT determined additional stop signs were not warranted.
Although VDOT has no records of crashes at the Decatur and Brent Point roads intersection between Jan. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2018, Magner said accidents do happen frequently, but it takes a considerable amount of time for emergency vehicles to respond, therefore, Magner feels many accidents go unreported.
Fortunately, the roadway safety improvements that area residents are hoping for are soon on the way.
Decatur Road is scheduled for a safety widening and paving in calendar year 2020, similar to the widening and paving project recently completed on Andrew Chapel Road.
VDOT officials say the county will slightly widen Decatur Road to gain at least 1 foot of width along each shoulder and more where possible, and then VDOT will follow the widening work by paving the entire road to provide a new travel surface across a wider road footprint. Fresh pavement markings will top it off.
“I’m all for that, but at the end of the day, all you have is more space for people to go faster,” said Magner. “We want the stop signs and I don’t think they’re taking this serious. If they think I’m going to forget about this and give up, that’s not going to happen.”
VDOT inspected the area during the week of June 17 and found speed limit and curve warning signs along the route to be in good condition. Trees and vegetation were also trimmed on Decatur Road during that week.