BERRYVILLE — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) soon will be ready to propose safety improvements for Harry Byrd Highway (Va. 7) in Clarke County, an official said Tuesday.

Scott Alexander, assistant resident engineer at VDOT’s regional office in Edinburg, told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors he anticipates engineers will complete a “safety audit” of the route in September. A report listing possible improvements for intersections, along with potential funding sources, then can be presented to the board, he said.

In December, the supervisors asked VDOT to examine the portion of Va. 7 between Triple J Road west of Berryville east to the mountains at the Loudoun County line. The request stemmed from their own concerns about traffic safety as well as ones they heard from the public.

The highway is heavily traveled by commuters between Winchester and Washington, D.C. Speeding is a problem along the route, officials have said, despite hills, sharp curves and short sight distances at some locations.

Russell District Supervisor Barbara Byrd asked why the audit is taking so long to complete. Alexander replied that VDOT engineers have a heavy workload.

Byrd then asked what Alexander expects the report to recommend. He doesn’t know, he said. However, recommendations could include measures such as installing rumble strips, increasing the widths of road shoulders and increasing the lengths of “recovery areas” where vehicles that veer off the side can get back onto the highway, he continued.

Vehicles running off the highway have damaged fences at adjacent farms, Byrd said. She mentioned that at least one landowner moved back a fence for that reason.

Fence damages could cause problems for farmers, such as livestock getting loose, she said.

Supervisors Chairman David Weiss said that anyone choosing to relocate fences would have to cover the expense themselves. Any funds that VDOT might provide could not be used to pay for work on private property.

Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District, asked VDOT to also examine safety concerns around the intersection of Va. 7 and U.S. 340 (Lord Fairfax Highway) just north of Berryville.

One of his concerns, he mentioned, is drivers in left lanes swerving in front of traffic in right lanes to get to exit ramps. The other is a median crossover on Va. 7, slightly west of the intersection, that is marked “authorized vehicles only” but where unauthorized vehicles are turning around, he said.

“At the very least,” Weiss said, VDOT could “look at closing it down.” Four-wheel-drive emergency vehicles could cross the grassy median without using the crossover, he speculated.

Alexander indicated he will get engineers to consider Weiss’ concerns.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

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