By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 20, 2019 | 11:00 a.m.
New signs installed on Interstate 95 last week, VDOT reps report
PRINCE GEORGE – Nearly two months after a charter bus crashed along Interstate 95 at Exit 45 in Prince George County, officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation said they are moving forward with improvements to the area, including changes to signs that some believe may have contributed to the accident.
According to VDOT representative Dianna Bryant, the agency is in the process of “redesigning” the signage posted in the area of Interstate 95 northbound near Exit 45 that gives drivers information regarding the approaching Interstate 295 interchange roughly a mile away from the U.S. Route 301/South Crater Road off-ramp, with the goal of installing that signage over the next few weeks.
That information comes nearly two months to the day of an early morning charter bus crash along the highway on March 19, where a New York-bound bus overturned at the Exit 45 off-ramp as it attempted to take the exit, rolling off the left side of the ramp, killing two and injuring dozens of others on board.
In the hours and days after the deadly crash, two topics were discussed by observers in the wake of the crash; the possible role of the weather as heavy fog covered much of the area in the early morning hours of the crash, and if posted signage in the area may have confused the driver, causing 40-year-old Yui Man Chow to take the wrong exit, inadvertently thinking Exit 45 was indeed the I-295 northbound on-ramp at Exit 46.
At the time of this report, prior to Exit 45, there is a fixed, aerial sign that informs drivers traveling along I-95 northbound that Exit 46 is two miles ahead, which guides drivers onto I-295 northbound.
A little way up I-95 and close to the Exit 45 off-ramp is a fixed, ground level sign that conveys travel times via a digital display for both Interstate 95 and 295 northbound. That sign, in its current form, doesn’t state the Interstate 295 on-ramp is located at Exit 46, even though the fixed sign is located next to the travel lane that leads off I-95 and onto the Exit 45 off-ramp to South Crater Road.
Pictured is one of two signs posted within two miles of the Interstate 295 interchange near Exit 45. Some believe signage posted in the area may have confused the driver of a charter bus that crashed at Exit 45 in March, killing two and injuring dozens more.
Those concerns were brought up by county supervisors during VDOT’s report last week when they asked if any studies had been conducted regarding the signage in that area and if they have looked at possibly adjusting that signage’s placement, such as moving it further north of the U.S. Route 301 overpass beyond Exit 45.
In an interview, VDOT Communications representative Bethanie Glover explained, following a recent safety review at the I-95/Exit 45 corridor, a number of improvements have been made, even though, according to Glover, “The existing signage at the interchange met all federal requirements as directed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,” which is a Federal Highway Administration standard used by road managers to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel.
Prior to Bryant’s presentation to the board, Glover said they have installed larger stop signs at the end of the exit ramp at its intersection with U.S. Route 301, put in new chevron signs to alert drivers to the curve in the exit ramp and added advisory signage to Crater Road to warn drivers of the approaching intersection following concerns about safety at that specific location.
In addition, by the end of last week, Glover explained they intend to have installed, “A sign on I-95 north with the exit number, route number shield, directional arrow, advisory speed and destination of Petersburg,” “An oversized Ramp 25 mph sign” for the Exit 45 off-ramp that leads to Crater Road, and “A sign in the gore area with exit number, route number shield, advisory speed and directional arrow.”
“Safety is always VDOT’s first priority,” Glover said last week. “Traffic engineering experts will continue to monitor and evaluate the safety and operations of the interchange during and after the implementation of these adjustments, and will make additional changes as needed.”
As VDOT works to address driver and locality concerns about the busy exit ramp, the case against the charter bus driver Chow continues to move through Prince George General District Court. Following the crash, Chow was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter along with a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving.
Chow has been released on his own recognizance, with the Staten Island, NY resident being required to stay in the Commonwealth ahead of his next court appearance in June.
Involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum penalty of ten years behind bars, with a minimum of a year of incarceration required, if convicted.