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Residents plea for a new signal light on Route 1

STAFFORD — Both residents and leaders want a new traffic signal erected on Route 1 near an iconic crucifix.

Stafford County resident Amy Wieman said the cross is there for a reason.

“…if you pull out that road especially at rush hour you’re not at all like you literally have to pray. That’s why the crucifix there,” she said.

OK, not really. The crucifix is a historical marker to note the nearby location of the first Catholic settlement in Virginia.

But the intersection of Route 1 and Telegraph Road has long plagued Stafford drivers, especially during the afternoon rush hours when parents go and pick up their children at the nearby Widewater Elementary and Sheirly Heim Middle schools.

“Every single time I leave school I say a little prayer and I hope I don’t get into an accident. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even let my father-in-law pick up the kids from school because it is so dangerous,” one resident told the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.

Hers is a story shared with other residents, like this one from Stafford resident Amy Bancroft, of Aquia Harbour:

“My daughter is a student-athlete at Shirley high middle school and has to be picked up at 5 p.m. every day after practice which is a most unfortunate time of day to attempt to bring our children home. Traffic southbound on Route 1 is bumper to bumper and vehicles traveling northbound are speeding. With zero room for error, there is no median line to assist in merging onto southbound traffic. On Route 1 it is a wing and a prayer.

Driving these 11-year-old girls home from practice each day. As of this week, the school buses are now being instructed to go six miles north of the stoplight near Boswell’s corners near the Marine Corps Base Quantico. Adding another 30 to 40 minutes of traffic and commuting time for buses who have elementary school runs afterward is unacceptable and pushing vehicles further north certainly just might assist the already congested streets and heavy traffic flow.”

In the past week, a middle school teacher was injured when she was involved in a crash at the intersection, said Stafford Widewater District Supervisor Jack Cavalier:

“Last Monday there was a terrible car wreck at the intersection of time on Telegraph Road on Route 1 and it happened to be a new teacher from Stafford middle school. And it’s just one of the many accidents occur in that area…. Several years ago, probably 15 by now, I asked VDOT to put in a light at that intersection. Instead, there was a light put in just to the south of that location.”

This week, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to petition the Virginia Department of Transportation for permission to erect a new, temporary stop light at the intersection. The new light will look similar to a new light erected in front of Colonial Forge High School. The new stop lights will be hung from wires strung between two utility poles, instead of having permanent steel mast poles and arms.

VDOT has already approved a permanent signal light for this intersection, however, it could take up to three years to install. If the state transportation agency grants approval, the Stafford County Public Works Department could install the temporary signal light faster and, potentially cheaper, bringing relief to drivers sooner. 

And so far this year, the intersection has proven to be a dangerous one.

Stafford County Sheriff David Decatur said:

“So here is what we found so far this year. We’ve had, counting the car crash we had been brought up last week we’ve had 22 crashes. Those are reportable. And there’s a certain criterion for a reportable crash… a certain amount of damage. Fifteen hundred dollars for the damage or injury or death. So that’s reportable that we have so far in the audit and that is in the area of Telegraph Road and Woodstock and then Telegraph Road on the southern end of the crucifix.”

Photo: Mary Davidson

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