Fire Tower traffic pressure

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Residents ask supervisors for help

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

ZUNI—When rural meets industrial, things can become tense.

Fire Tower Road, a narrow, winding road in Zuni, has become a prime example of that clash for many of its residents.

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A petition submitted to the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors that garnered more than 200 signatures itemizes a number of dilemmas with the roughly six-mile stretch of road, a primary one being its frequent usage by tractor trailers as a shortcut to Windsor Boulevard (Rt. 460), which is often bustling with business traffic. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Fire Tower Road (Rt. 644), which currently has no shoulders and a fair number of sharp twists and turns, connects Courthouse Highway (Rt. 258) and 460, and can be seen flooded with commuters in mornings and evenings, according to Zuni resident Jane March, who initiated the petition and has lived on the road for about 50 years.

“It’s a rural road, and we’d kind of like to keep it that way,” said March.

The speed limit on Fire Tower is 55 mph, a speed March said she would like to see reduced in the road’s more residential portion. The road is otherwise surrounded largely by farmland.

Cecil Byrum, the owner of Byrum Family Farms, which grows corn, cotton, wheat and soybeans by the road, called the combination of the rural road and commercial trucks a public safety concern.

“It’s a toxic mix,” said Byrum, who also needs to move farming equipment along the road at times, a task made more difficult by the shoulder-less road and its frequent traffic. School busses also use the road regularly, according to Byrum.

Byrum said he took the matter to the Board of Supervisors a number of years ago, which resulted in a “Share the Road” sign being posted.

“We’d be glad to share the road,” said Byrum. The problem is, “there’s no road there to share.”

Byrum said he would like to see shoulders installed along the road, and until then, a “No Thru Traffic” sign posted.

“I’m 60 years old, there has been no improvement in my lifetime,” he said of the state of the road.

With no shoulders to allow any forgiveness, March said it’s not unheard of for tractor trailers to tip over on the edge of the curved motorway.

“You get dumped in the field,” she said. “It’s kind of scary sometimes.”

With weeds growing high on the edge of the road along with its snake-like curves, it’s also difficult to see very far ahead while traversing the road, according to March.

The turn onto the road from the 55 mph-Route 460 has also been a concern for some, according to March, as it is at an almost 60-degree angle, with a large ditch adjacent to it.

March said she’s given up on the tricky turn altogether, instead getting back home from Tar Road.  {/mprestriction}