Despite some questions about enforcement and the alternative route drivers could take, the King George Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to enact a plan to prevent trucks from using Dahlgren Road as a transit.
Chief Executive Jeff Stonehill first proposed in April that the county pass a resolution designating State Route 206 as a truck-through zone. The 8-mile winding stretch between State Route 3 and US 301 is the main route for commuters heading to the Navy base in Dahlgren — and it’s also become increasingly densely populated with subdivisions over the years, King George officials said .
In addition, the frequency of large trucks has increased exponentially, said Kimberly Heilman, who lives off Route 206 and regularly sees gas tankers and others carrying hazardous materials en route to destinations off Dahlgren Road. “There’s always big vehicles, flammable vehicles, and there’s nothing on this street but apartment buildings.”
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Supervisor Cathy Binder was the only one of five board members who voted against escalating the matter to the Virginia Department of Transportation for further investigation. If VDOT approves the measure, it will go to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which will ultimately rule on the matter because Route 206 is a major road, VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Hannon said.
But the first step in that process is for the community to name an alternative and solicit comments during a public hearing that took place on Tuesday. County officials said the alternative for truckers would be US 301 to State Route 205 and then Route 3 at King George Elementary School.
The stretch of Route 205 runs through a rural portion of the county, Binder said, but also has several busy spots, including offshoots to a convenience center, trailer park, elementary school and park.
Both she and local resident Dee Strauss also noted that the alternative would take truckers through the Route 3 courthouse, where Strauss said motorists are not currently stopping for pedestrians who might try to cross the street. Also, Binder said, there are businesses in this downtown area — including the county’s administrative building — that would be affected by more traffic.
“Our own employees in this building are having trouble getting out of both entrances and onto Route 3 around 4, 4:30 a.m.,” Binder said. “I have some concerns about diverting traffic onto roads that may not be ready for them.”
Stonehill and Supervisor TC Collins agreed that Route 205 has problems but is a better choice for gas tankers, tractor-trailers coming out of Maryland heading for Fredericksburg, or garbage trucks en route to the King George County landfill on Route 3 is.
“Granted, 205 isn’t the best road, it’s a small skinny road…but it’s straight,” Stonehill said. “It’s not windy and not congested with a lot of houses and such.”
Collins and Binder both wondered what types of trucks would be banned and how the measure would be enforced. Stonehill cited Virginia Code Section 46.2-809, which states that the restriction may apply to all trucks, with or without a trailer, except pickup trucks or panel vans. Stonehill said the designation would not apply to semi-trailer drivers living along Route 206 or trucks traveling on business — only those using the road as a shortcut.
Stonehill also said he spoke to Sheriff Chris Giles, who was unable to answer questions at the meeting because he was the host of the National Night Out event. Giles told the chief executive that MPs would have to follow the trucks, which would use the road as a breakthrough from end to end, but were prepared to do so.
James Morris, one of three residents who spoke at the hearing, cited his 15 years of experience as a fire safety officer and as a former emergency vehicle driver and instructor.
“I can’t understand why a major vehicle operator would choose this road,” he said, noting that accidents will continue to happen on the narrow streets, “but do we really want an 80,000-pound truck or an 8,000-pound gallon gasoline tanker involved?”
Before the pandemic, between 10,000 and 11,000 vehicles used Route 206 every day, according to the VDOT, and trucks made up about 1% of the traffic. While there are accident hotspots along Dahlgren Road, the sheriff said last week there was no problem with tractor-trailer accidents on the road.