Time to slow down

Published 8:45 pm Thursday, December 26, 2013

There is no question that things have changed pretty radically along Bridge Road during the past couple of decades. Start with the name and move on from there.

What used to be known to most folks as “Route 17” has become “Bridge Road” in nearly all circumstances, and the change in generally accepted nomenclature feels about right for a road that cuts across the fastest-growing portion of Suffolk and — for that matter — one of the fastest-growing parts of the commonwealth. “Route 17” has the sound of a road that meanders through the countryside, moving folks at highway speeds from one rural area to another rural area, through other areas known for their rural natures.

Though the highway might one day have met at least some of those criteria, the best words to describe Route 17 today are “bustling corridor,” and those words nearly always work their way into stories about growth in Hampton Roads. “Bridge Road” is a far more fitting name for the road these days.

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Folks have a different set of expectations for bustling corridors than they do for rural areas, and therefore it was always likely that Suffolk officials eventually would seek to reduce the speed limit along Bridge Road. They did, and the new 45-mile-per-hour speed limit went into effect along the entire length of the road in November. With new and expanding shopping centers, businesses and residential communities along the road, traffic is getting worse, and the potential for collisions is rising.

Police said the first 30 days or so of the new speed limit went about as they had expected. There was a slight — though statistically insignificant — increase in the number of speeding tickets issued along the road, and police said they were unsurprised to hear that some folks were having a hard time adjusting to the new limit.

But change doesn’t come easily, especially for those who have done things the old way for many long years. Eventually the corridor will be completely built up with shopping centers, fast-food restaurants and community entrances, and all the added traffic will cause drivers to naturally reduce their speed.

You might not want to wait for that to happen, though. It’s a safe bet Suffolk Police Department officers will be willing and ready to write a few tickets in the interim.