Big wrecks: Should interstate detours get traffic cops?
UVA football games, Charlottesville running races, and even the recent Dogwood Festival get the benefit of police officers directing traffic. So why didn't the massive tie-up that snarled Pantops for several hours on Tuesday, April 12?
That's what Tayloe Emery wants to know.
The Virginia man was trying to get to downtown Charlottesville, but his path was blocked by an Interstate 64 wreck that sent a tractor trailer sprawling across both westbound lanes and created a 10-mile-long backup behind mile marker 123.
"There's not a single cop directing traffic," said miffed motorist, reporting two hours spent creeping from the area of Zion Crossroads to the top of Pantops Mountain.
"Don't you think it would be smart," asked Emery, "to have people pushing traffic instead of moving an inch an hour? The cop could be waving people through."
Emery says that as he crept along U.S. 250 east of Free Bridge he called the police departments of both Albemarle and Charlottesville and says he was told that manpower issues prevented officers from supplanting traffic lights.
Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Lou Hatter was asked if VDOT has a game plan to deploy traffic directors in the wake of an interstate-snarling crash.
"We do what we can to minimize the impacts," says Hatter, mentioning media releases, illuminated roadside message boards, and the state's 511.org website which duly noted this incident.
But as for a more intensive boots-on-the-ground (and hands-in-the-air) program, Hatter said, "I'm not aware of that, but that's a suggestion I'll pass along to the traffic operations group."
According to state releases, the incident began around 7:58am at mile marker 123 when a tire blew out on a Toyota Tundra pickup truck which swerved to its right and struck a nearby tractor-trailer which then jackknifed across both westbound lanes, leading to minor injuries for the truck-driver.
The Toyota's driver, William Agusto, 31, of North Carolina, and his passenger were not injured in the crash; but Agusto was charged with driving without a license and with reckless driving.
The fuel tank on the tractor-trailer reportedly ruptured in the collision, so there was a spill that needed to be cleaned up before the highway could be reopened. One westbound lane was opened around 11:50am, and the other around 12:30pm.