By Megan Murchie-Beyma
In Rockbridge County, residents are raising concerns about dangerous conditions on Tinkerville Road in Glasgow.
Jon Repair, the owner of Rainbow Ridge Farms in Glasgow, said speeding cars and tractor-trailers too big for the narrow road make it a dangerous place to drive.
“There’s nowhere to escape,” he said. “If somebody takes your side of the road, you’re toast.”
Tinkerville Road, also called Route 684, winds up and down hills to connect Lee Highway and Forge Road in Glasgow. The two-lane road is narrow. Trees, ditches, streams and farms on either side leave little room to move out of an oncoming vehicle’s way.
In his 32 years living on Tinkerville Road, Repair said he has seen many crashes.
A Mustang convertible nose-dived into his field. A drunk driver crashed through his field, destroying 120 feet of his fence and terrifying his cows, he said. He’s seen a truck that flipped upside-down after taking a curve too fast. His wife recently started taking a different route to work to avoid driving on Tinkerville Road.
Four weeks ago, Repair said he got trapped on the road. He said he was driving a truck filled with bales of hay when he met a tractor-trailer.
“I saw him, and he saw me, and we couldn’t stop fast enough,” he said.
They didn’t collide, but the road wasn’t wide enough for both of them. The driver of the tractor-trailer tried to back up but got stuck. The tractor-trailer driver had to wait for a tow truck. Repair drove backwards up the road and through the property of a farmer who lives nearby.
“I was just glad to get out of there,” he said.
Last week, he asked the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors to lower the speed limit, improve signage and increase enforcement of violations.
“That whole section of roadway … is probably one of the most dangerous sections of road in the county,” he said at the Feb 22 board meeting. “We need to get control of it.”
David McDaniel, the vice chairman for the board, said he would support measures to improve the safety on Tinkerville Road.
“I’ve discussed that several times with the board,” he said at the meeting. “Everything that the citizen commented on is 100% correct. The road is too narrow. Vehicles plow through there.”
Mary Atthowe, who’s lived along Tinkerville Road since 1974, said she was glad Repair took action and talked to the board.
Frequent fence fixes
She said people driving trucks and cars have knocked down her mailbox several times and wiped out her fence. Her husband has repaired it at least 20 times, she said in an email.
“We’d like to have a nice fence everywhere,” she said. “But it keeps disappearing.”
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles’ crash map data show six crashes occurred on the road in the past five years. One person was injured in a crash.
McDaniel said he saw several accidents and trapped tractor-trailers during his 15 years of working with the volunteer fire department.
“I don’t think it’s safe for tractor-trailers or anything that large to be driving on it,” he said.
Part of a shortcut
He said the drivers of tractor-trailers usually end up on the road as part of a shortcut from Interstate 81 to get to Mohawk Industries, a flooring company that has a factory in Glasgow, or to Route 501, which goes to Lynchburg.
“GPS takes them that way because it’s a little bit shorter,” he said. “Even though it might be a little shorter, it may not save you time because you may get stuck.”
McDaniel said when trucks get stuck on the narrow road, it can take hours for a big enough tow truck to get there.
Technically, vehicles longer than 40 feet are prohibited from driving on Tinkerville Road and can be ticketed if they do.
But Repair said the warning sign is located too far back on the road. He said when drivers turn onto Tinkerville, they see it too late and can’t get back to the main road safely.
“I start to make the turn, I’m watching my trailer … and then I look up,” he said. “[Now] I’m committed. So, what do I do? Do I keep going or do I do something more dangerous and back up and try to get on the road?”
Warning signs and widening the road
Ken Slack, communications specialist for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Staunton District, said the county can work with the local VDOT office in Lexington to make small changes, like moving the warning sign.
But for bigger projects like widening the road, the county would need to apply for funds through SMART SCALE, a VDOT program that ranks the importance of project proposals and decides which ones get money.
Slack said in an email that VDOT put up extra warning signs along curves on Tinkerville Road in 2019 and is about to start a speed study of traffic along the road.
At the board meeting, County Administrator Spencer Suter said a speed study is one of the first steps that must be taken before the speed limit on the road could be changed.
Repair is worried what will happen if conditions stay the same.
“The road is so unsafe,” he said. “Somebody’s going to get killed.”