Two months ago, I noticed that the school zone speed limit sign on Parkers Lane is south of the intersection with Hinson Farm Road and that there is no other such sign north of that intersection. It occurred to me that the location of that sign means that traffic turning left onto Parkers Lane from Hinson Farm Road cannot see that sign. As such, when the sign is flashing, indicating that the speed limit from the location of the sign to past Walt Whitman Middle School is reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph, those turning vehicles are unaware that the speed limit is reduced and travel past the school at 35 mph (or more).
As such, I visited Supervisor Storck's office and brought this to the attention of his receptionist and a staffer who identified herself as responsible for this issue. They agreed with my concern and they assured me they would promptly notify the Mount Vernon School Board representative and request that she take action.
After three weeks went by and the sign was still there, this scenario was the subject of my letter to the editor published in the Jan. 12 Gazette. The next day, I heard from the School Board rep who explained to me that she had never heard from Supervisor Storck's office concerning this issue. She indicated she would look into it.
Almost three weeks later, she e-mailed me informing me that her staff looked at the sign and informed her that "Movement of the sign would require new authorization and unfortunately the existing rules would not allow for a sign to be put in place." I immediately responded explaining that this response was unacceptable and suggesting that the focus must be to ensure the safety of children attending the school. She had informed me that "all of the students that attend Walt Whitman are bused to the school." I am skeptical that this universal statement is true. There must be some children who walk to that school at one time or another. It only takes one tragic accident to throw our community into turmoil. Such a scenario must be prevented.
I further explained to her that the sign location results in a situation, when the sign is flashing, in which vehicles are traveling at two different speeds on the same road, creating further risk. She responded again explaining again that "the code does not allow for flashing signs in areas where students are not walkers." She also explained that the school system "is not responsible for establishing the code for signage" but that she would be happy to work with Supervisor Storck's office and VDOT "to see" what other options are available. That e-mail was received on Feb. 3, almost three weeks ago.
The day after that email was received, Supervisor Storck held his town meeting at Mount Vernon High School. I attended the early morning portion in the cafeteria where numerous tables were displaying for numerous organizations. While walking along, I happened upon former Supervisor Hyland and James Patteson who is in charge of the county's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES). I explained the situation to Supervisor Hyland and Mr. Patteson and they fully agreed with my concern and that something needs to be done about it and quickly. I asked Supervisor Hyland if he would do what he could to expedite a proper solution and he agreed to do so.
These are the facts. As of today, that sign is still in the same location and drivers turning left from Hinson Farm Road onto Parkers Lane are unaware of when the speed limit is lowered. An additional sign located on Hinson Farm Road or north of its intersection with Parkers Lane would solve this problem. If our local government is incapable of solving such a simple problem, I question whether it is competent to address the larger issues. I trust that parents of children who attend Walt Whitman Middle School share my concern as should our government officials.
H. Jay Spiegel