Watch your speed: Limit going down on Holland Road

Published 10:16 pm Thursday, May 7, 2009

Motorists on U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk will notice lower speed limits on sections of the road next week.

Suffolk officials announced Thursday that the speed limit will be lowered on two sections of the highway, known locally as Holland Road. The changes are being made based on a traffic study and statistics that showed that the road produced 249 crashes, with 60 injuries and four fatal wrecks, over the last three years.

“We try to be very proactive and very concerned about our safety issues,” said Robert Lewis, the city traffic engineer. “Suffolk is a very fast-growing city, and (road) conditions change very quickly. We wanted to make sure we were accurate and correct in those.”

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The 45 mph speed limit through the congested “Hamburger Alley” section west of the bypass will be extended to ¾ mile west of Manning Bridge Road. The 45 mph speed currently extends only to .22 mile west of Manning Bridge Road. That area includes the massive CenterPoint development and others approved for construction.

From ¾ mile west of Manning Bridge Road to the Holland bypass, the speed limit will go down from 60 mph to 55 mph. This area includes the four fatal crashes in the last three years, two of which occurred at the same spot within a week of each other this winter.

Lewis said that Holland Road has been on the city’s traffic radar for a while, but the recent fatalities moved the road to the top of the list.

That portion of Holland Road was built in the 1960s, a time when the standards for road construction were different than today, Lewis said.

“During the time it was built, it was a state-of-the-art highway,” Lewis said. “But these days, we try to design highways to be more forgiving of driver error.”

The open ditches and narrow shoulders on either side of Holland Road provide no room for mistakes by inattentive or inexperienced drivers.

“It’s a very unforgiving road,” Lewis said. “If you leave the roadway in the older section, you don’t have much chance to recover.”

The road handles about 20,000 cars per day, a number Lewis estimates is mostly made up of people traveling to and from Hampton Roads.

“A significant portion do not drive the highway daily,” he said. “They’re coming in and out of the area for whatever reason.”

Some localities west of Suffolk also have lowered the speed limits to 55 mph on their portions of Route 58, Lewis said.

Signs reflecting the new speed limits will be posted beginning May 13. The speed limits will be enforceable as soon as the new sign goes up. Additional reminders, such as electronic message boards and machines that measure and register a driver’s speed, also will be posted along the highway.

“The intent is to modify their behavior and slow down just a little bit and see if we can reduce those crashes, and certainly eliminate those fatalities,” Lewis said.