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Speed limit on Lake Anna Parkway to be reduced at beginning, end of school day


Starting Wednesday, the speed limit along Lake Anna Parkway will be reduced to 35 mph when Spotsylvania High School and Post Oak Middle School students are arriving and departing, said Don Upperco, the schools’ executive director of operations, at Monday’s School Board meeting.

The current speed limit in that work zone is 45 mph. However, it is to be raised to 55 mph when work is completed. The division has been concerned for students’ safety since classes began last Tuesday. Drivers struggled to gain entry to both schools amid fog, construction vehicles and new entrance designs.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is working on phase II of the Spotsylvania Courthouse Bypass project in front of the two schools. A four-mile stretch known as Lake Anna Parkway opened on Aug. 16, five days before school began. However, the project won’t be finished until the middle of next year.

School Board member Ray Lora has been vocal about his concern for student safety because of the design of the entrances for the two schools. There is a traffic signal at the intersection of Lake Anna Parkway and Post Oak Road, which is where buses enter for both schools and where high school students enter their parking lot.

Lora said that entrance is too narrow for buses, trucks and cars. The other entrance, which is the main entrance to the high school, now has a steep incline from the school onto the parkway.

Last week, VDOT agreed to reduce that incline by about half within the next five weeks. That was one of five changes VDOT agreed to make in response to safety concerns. Another was not to work on the project while students are arriving and departing.

At Monday’s School Board meeting, Lora made a motion for Superintendent Scott Baker to send a letter to VDOT Fredericksburg District Administrator Quintin Elliott asking him to get involved in the project. Other board members unanimously supported the suggestion.

Elliott oversees VDOT projects in the Fredericksburg region, Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

Lora said he would like to see the entrance to the schools at the traffic signal widened to four lanes and see VDOT create another entrance to the high school off State Route 656. However, Lee Brimer, schools maintenance director, said he doesn’t think the land would support an entrance along Route 656.

Flashing school-zone signs will alert drivers of the 35 mph limit as of Wednesday. The new limit will run in the mornings from 30 minutes before classes begin at the high school to the start of the middle school. In the afternoon, the speed will be reduced before the high school day ends and continue until 30 minutes after the middle school ends.

Lora said the issues in front of both schools need to be resolved now, while VDOT is on the scene, saying there is a five-week window of opportunity.

Lora said that while he was a police officer in Washington 40 years ago, he witnessed the death of a teenager. He said the memory remains with him, and he doesn’t want Spotsylvania students to meet the same fate.

“This is no good,” he said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972