Transportation officials are taking additional action involving issues with Reeds Gap, a mountainous stretch of roadway that in the past several months has been clogged numerous times because of stuck tractor-trailers.
A recent traffic study performed by the Virginia Department of Transportation found Reeds Gap — part of Virginia 664 which crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway — to contain severe horizontal curves, steep grades and documented incidents of trucks unable to successfully navigate along the route, all of which supported the need to restrict travel.
As a result, through tractor-trailers will be barred from traveling on Beech Grove and Reeds Gap roads, a VDOT news release states. The roughly 8-mile stretch of roadway spans both Nelson and Augusta counties.
The prohibition applies only to through tractor trailers and not trailers that start or stop along the designated route. Signage will be posted alerted drivers of the change, according to the release.
“I’m ecstatic about it. I know VDOT has worked very hard on this,” Wintergreen Fire and Rescue Chief Curtis Sheets said. “Of course we’re still going to have violators. This is not going to magically make all the trucks go away.”
The Wintergreen department, which is often the agency that responds to these calls for service, has posted several times to its social media when authorities respond to an immobilized truck along Reeds Gap.
The release points to economic development within Nelson and Augusta counties leading to increased truck traffic on Beech Grove and Reeds Gap roads.
Since the start of the new year, Sheets said there have been eight incidents of tractor-trailers being stuck along Reeds Gap.
According to the traffic study, immobilized trucks typically result in full road closures, causing, in most cases, hours-long delays and detours for the average motorist as well as delays first responders.
“Everything hiccups when there’s a truck stuck on Reeds Gap,” Sheets said.
Sheets recalled a couple of occasions where trucks ensnared along Reeds Gap had resulted in short delays for emergency crews in route to “critical calls.”
The release notes some of this traffic has been the result of GPS directions and both VDOT’s Lynchburg and Staunton districts installed signs at several locations leading up to Beech Grove and Reeds Gap roads alerting truckers that GPS routing was not advised.
Despite the interim signage, the number of incidents and delays has increased, according to the release.
Sheets said the issue was a “runaway freight train” that the department attributed to bad signage. He said there was a noticeable improvement once signs went up in both Augusta and Nelson counties, but the issue gradually “crept back up when people figured out they could ignore the signs.”
Paula Jones, VDOT communications manager, said VDOT’s Lynchburg and Staunton districts are coordinating to have the new signs installed in the coming weeks.
The east side of Reeds Gap falls in the Lynchburg district and the west side falls in the Staunton district. Alternative routes include Interstate 64 and U.S. 29.