BERRYVILLE — Weather permitting, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will finish installing six-inch-wide striping along the edges of Va. 7 (Harry Byrd Highway) between Winchester and the Clarke/Loudoun county line by Thanksgiving.
The new striping, which actually will extend 2,500 feet beyond that line, is intended to help drivers see edges of the highway more easily — particularly at night — so they don’t run off the shoulders, VDOT officials have said. Current edge lines are only four inches wide.
New striping is one of various measures VDOT is planning, at the Clarke County Board of Supervisors’ request, to try and make the highway safer.
A four-lane, divided highway, Va. 7 is heavily traveled by commuters between Winchester, Berryville and the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area. Officials say speeding and short sight distances caused by hills and curves are major problems along its 13½-mile stretch through Clarke. The speed limit is 55 mph, yet VDOT measurements show the average speed of vehicles traveling the highway is about 63 mph.
The intersection of Va. 7 and Route 601 (Blue Ridge Mountain Road) near the Loudoun line has become a major concern for Clarke officials because of Appalachian Trail hikers crossing the highway as well as traffic backups and people parking and walking along the side road. Officials maintain a brewery just over the line in Loudoun County is largely responsible for the traffic problems.
Ed Carter, resident engineer at VDOT’s regional office in Edinburg, told the supervisors in a recent email that on Dec. 4 staff from the Staunton District and Northern Virginia District VDOT offices will meet with Clarke and Loudoun officials to discuss problems at the intersection.
Clarke supervisors have told VDOT to hurry up and find ways to make Va. 7 safer. Talking with state lawmakers last week, board Chairman David Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District, described the situation at the Route 601 intersection as a crisis.
VDOT officials maintain the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed their progress.
The transportation department already has installed flashing signals at the intersection.
Other improvements planned by VDOT include the installation of more caution signs along Va. 7, as well as stop bars and center line extensions on the side roads.
During the supervisors’ regular monthly meeting Tuesday afternoon, Weiss said he’s noticed lines recently drawn on Route 612 (Shepherds Mill Road) and Route 608 (Parshall Road) near their Va. 7 intersections that seem to be the early stages of stop bars.
At the least, “it looks like something’s going to be painted there,” he said.
Signs and pavement markings are scheduled to be installed this fall, Carter wrote in his email.
Carter usually speaks during the supervisors’ monthly sessions. He wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting because VDOT officials are limiting their travel while the pandemic persists.
In his email, Carter also mentioned that:
As part of creating additional parking for trail hikers, a new entrance has been installed along Va. 605 (Morgans Mill Road).
Fence-to-fence mowing along primary routes — those numbered up to 599 — will be completed this month and brush-cutting will begin.
Two pipes on Route 644 (Gun Barrel Road) and one on U.S. 340 (Lord Fairfax Highway) in the White Post area were replaced to lessen drainage problems there.
Potholes along various roads are being repaired, and
Various soft-surface roads are being graded, and stone applied to them.