ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission voted 13-8 Monday to increase the speed limit on Bradley Creek Road from 45 mph to 55 mph for passenger vehicles, despite the fact that the sheriff’s office said in December the change is unsafe.
An amendment approved Monday set a 50 mph speed limit for commercial trucks.
Commissioners opposed to the change said the higher speed limit creates an unnecessary safety hazard that cuts travel time from one end of the road to the other by only 30 seconds.
Bradley Creek Road, located just west of Church Hill, was built about 20 years ago to give heavy trucks traveling to and from the Caters Valley Landfill a better connecting road to Highway 11-W.
Previously the landfill traffic was using Fudges Chapel Road.
In December, the commission rejected a 10 mph speed limit increase by a vote of 5-16.
During that meeting, HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen told commissioners the change would be unsafe and that Sheriff Ronnie lawson had recommended against it.
“He's got some good reason, I’m sure”
Monday’s speed limit increase resolution was introduced by Commissioner Dawson Fields, who admitted that he didn’t know the reason this proposal was being brought before the commission a second time.
Fields said the proposal was recommended by Highway Superintendent Lowell Bean, who is out of town this week for highway conferences and didn’t attend the commission meeting.
“Superintendent Bean was elected by the county (to serve as) road superintendent, he’s qualified, he’s went to every class, coming and going,” Fields said. “He has brought it to us twice to raise this. If he thinks something needs to be raised, I would have to go along with what he said.
“I just felt like Lowell wouldn’t have brought it to us if it wasn’t OK. ... He’s got some good reason, I’m sure.”
“Not requested by Republic Services”
Bean told the Times News Tuesday he feels that 55 mph is an appropriate speed for Bradley Creek Road, although he wasn’t necessarily pushing for the change.
Bean said some nearby residents who use that road every day had asked that the speed limit be increased to 55 mph, and he forwarded their request to the commission’s Road Committee.
One woman in particular who got a speeding ticket on Bradley Creek Road complained that 45 mph was too slow for that road, Bean recalled.
Bean noted, however, that he hadn’t been contacted about the speed limit change by Republic Services, which operates the landfill on Carters Valley Road at the north end of Bradley Creek Road.
“You are going to be out of control”
Allen conducted a study on the road before the issue came up for a vote last December.
He told the commission then, “At 55 mph, I was still under control going from 11-W to the landfill. But because of the grade of the road, traveling from the landfill back to the highway at 55 mph, my vehicle was not fully under control. I would swerve quite a bit.”
Allen noted in December that many people drive 5 mph over the limit. He told commissioners is you hit 60 mph on Bradley Creek Road, “you are going to be out of control.”
Commissioner Syble Vaughan-Trent pointed out that Bradley Creek Road is 2.1 miles long from 11-W to Carters Valley Road, and at 55 mph you’ll travel from one end to the other 30 seconds faster than at 45 mph.
“Is 30 seconds worth someone’s life or someone being hurt?” Vaughan-Trent asked. “I spoke with the sheriff last week at the Law Enforcement Memorial Service, and he told me he would remain neutral this time, but nothing had changed. Why fix something that’s not broken?”
“It seems unnecessary”
Commissioner Hannah speaks, who drives that road every day, noted that nothing has changed between Monday and the December meeting, and she didn’t understand why the issue was raised again.
“It seems unnecessary,” she said. “... I reached out to Republic services, and the average weight for their trash trucks is 51,000 pounds. For me and my kids, I’d rather not see that 51,000 pounds barreling at me at 55 mph, especially around those curves. I’d also like to note that there’s no other side road in Hawkins County at 55 mph.”
Although the speed limit for passenger vehicles will be 55 mph, Commissioner’s Charlie Thacker’s motion to set the speed limit at 50 mph for commercial trucks was approved 15-6.
Commissioners who voted against the amended resolution included George Bridwell, Vaughan-Trent, Jeff Barrett, Valerie Goins, Speaks, Glenda Davis, Nancy Barker and Larry Clonce.