July 11, 2002
The trick to pulling out on Valley View Drive from Cobb Place in Franconia is the head turn. Because of the deep dip to the left and the bushes to the right limiting the view, it takes a degree of luck as well to avoid being sideswiped.
Gene Henry, a resident of Cobb, knows the dangerous intersection all too well and has approached the Virginia Department of Transportation and now Supervisor Dana Kauffman's office about getting a fish-eye mirror, strategically placed on the street light pole, to make it safer. At the intersection one afternoon, he watched a car disappear in the dip and suddenly appear at the intersection, giving the driver on Cobb little time.
"Here they come, up the hill," he said, "there's been some very near misses, I want to make a move before somebody gets killed."
Dick Szymansky lives on Valley View and knows the danger too. He's got it down to a science.
"You have to inch out. Once you make your commitment, you've got to go," he said.
"In essence, you're committed," Henry added.
They've both approached VDOT about the mirror only to be told they don't work.
"They gave me the same old excuse," Henry said.
According to VDOT spokesperson Ryan Hall, there was a study with mirrors done eight years ago and "they kept getting shot out," and the "wind would move them," according to Hall.
"We don't use them at all," he said, except for private use on driveways.
In Kauffman's office, transportation staff person, Joan Clark, got the same answer from VDOT. She did request a review of the area.
"We have requested that VDOT look at the intersection for safety signage," Clark said.
THE ROAD and neighborhood are victims of development, like other parts of the county, and Henry and Szymansky have seen their neighborhood across from the Lee District Supervisor's office go through changes. Valley View has a few steep drops and used to be known as "roller coaster road" on the local teenage circuit. Cars used to come speeding through the area, trying to get airborne on some of the hills.
"It was a fun road to them, we've had at least two or three deaths on that road," Henry said referring to accidents in the 1970s and '80s. "They'd wind up hitting those oak trees."
But the oaks were cut down years ago and a development of houses with great rooms and Jacuzzi's has slowed traffic down with proffered road improvements.
"The kids still come back here," Henry said.
Wife Mary Lou and he still live in the house she grew up in. Then, the house was on the land where I-495 is and they moved it inland to a piece of property a friend owned.
"My family moved in 1947, it was over there where 495 was. My family moved the house," she said.
Szymansky lives by a sharp corner, down from the intersection of Cobb Road. Some cars would try to navigate that corner at high speeds.
"I've had 10 or 12 people, had one guy that rolled up there," he said, pointing to a row of bushes in front of his house. "With the houses here, it's kind of subsided," he said.