Mining in Barboursville: Safety and Traffic Issues
General Shale proposes to transport material from the Barboursville
site to its existing plant in Somerset. The Special Use Permit (SUP)
application says that the material would be transported by tractor-trailer and
tandem-axle dump trucks, and specifies that the trucks would travel
up route 738 (Old Barboursville Road), cross the railroad tracks onto
route 20, then turn off onto route 655 to reach the Somerset
plant. The SUP application estimates 9,000 to 16,200 trucks per year
(during daylight hours) will use this route. This implies 30 to
54 trucks per day, or one truck coming or going approximately every 5 minutes.
This large amount of truck traffic raises several safety
issues, especially along Route 738, where the pavement is only 16 feet
Some of the issues are:
Route 738 is currently a quiet residential neighborhood. Traffic on this
road averages about 220 vehicles per day, according to the 2000 VDOT traffic
count. The proposed mining operation would add a large amount of heavy truck
traffic to this. The road's pavement is 16 feet wide, and the proposed
trucks have a width of about 9 feet -- more than half of the road width.
A view looking down route 738.
Clearly, this road width is inadequate for the proposed traffic. General
Shale's own application for a mining permit, submitted to the DMME,
specifies that the internal roads on the proposed mine site should have
a width of 24 feet.
The intersection with Route 20 is also problematic.
Observations have shown that trucks turning right from Route 738 onto
Route 20 must cross over into the oncoming lane to complete their turn.
The proposed mining operation would subject the residents of routes 738, 20 and 655
to greatly increased noise and exhaust emissions. This may also affect
those residents who live on Route 738 between the mine site and Route 33. The SUP application
specifies that the trucks will travel a route from 738 to 20, but at the February 5th
Planning Commission hearing a VDOT representative stated that
VDOT had no power to enforce such a route. Given the problems associated
with the railroad crossing (see below), drivers may choose to go the other
way along 738, turning onto Route 33 to avoid the crossing. This would
extend the area of concern to cover the entire length of Route 738.
Truck drivers have told us that, when traveling in unfamiliar territory,
they will often follow other trucks, hoping to find shortcuts. Southbound
trucks on Route 20, seeing General Shale trucks turning onto Route 738,
may well follow them onto this narrow road. Such traffic would affect
residents along the entire length of Route 738.
Finally, note that route 20 is one of our area's most important tourist
corridors, connecting the Barboursville and Horton wineries with Montpelier.
Tourists may come to associate visits to Orange County with cracked
windsheilds, long waits behind slow truck traffic and near-misses at
(Click on the images above to see larger versions of them)
- Railroad Crossing
In order to reach Route 20, trucks leaving the proposed mine would have
to cross two railroad tracks, near the intersection of 738 and 20.
According to Norfolk-Southern, an average of 12 trains cross Route 738 daily
between 9 AM and 5 PM. This produces several potential hazards.
First, the distance between the tracks and Route 20 is too short for large
trucks. Long trucks that pause at Route 20's stop sign actually hang over
onto the railroad tracks. Trucks coming from the other direction hang out
into route 20 when they stop at the railroad's crossing gate.
In the 90 miles between Charlottesville and Manassas, there is
only one section of double track, where one train can safely pass
another, and that is between Barboursville and Somerset. If a
southbound Amtrak needs to pass a northbound freight, the freight
will lie to at Barboursville and wait to be passed, not moving
until the other train has gone by. This procedure can take 10
minutes or longer, causing several trucks to line up.
With no turning lane on Route 20, trucks waiting to turn into Route
738 will block other southbound traffic on Route 20 until the train
Photograph of a tractor-trailer stopped with its nose to the railroad
crossing gate and its tail sticking out into one lane of Route 20.
Photograph of a schoolbus and a dump truck on route 738.
- School Buses
The possibility of accidents between trucks and schoolbuses is of particular
concern. At least four school buses are routed through Route 738 each school
day, and there are nine school bus stops on Route 20 between Routes 655 and 738,
some at blind curves. (The stopping distance of a loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55
MPH is 290 feet. Empty, the distance increases.) A 9-foot-wide school bus and
a 9-foot-wide dump truck cannot pass each other on the 16-foot-wide pavement of
Route 738 without going partially off of the road. Each time a vehicle runs
off of the pavement, the pavement surface is weakened and the vehicle and
its occupants are endangered.
- Road Maintenance
The addition of a thousands of heavy trucks each year to this route will increase
the speed with which the road deteriorates. These trucks are proposed to be
either tandem-axle dump trucks, which hold 15 tons, or trailer dump trucks, which hold 20 tons.
If General Shale does not improve the roads now, the citizens of
Orange County will be forced to, and soon.
- Route 738 is clearly too narrow to accommodate the proposed traffic.
- The addition of many large trucks to the traffic already travelling
the proposed hauling route poses a real danger to the safety of
- The proposed truck traffic will add significantly to the cost
of road maintenance in the area.