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The U. S. 460 eastbound lanes in the S-curve east of Montvale are now open.
The lanes have been closed since the evening of May 28 when a Watts Petroleum tanker truck rolled over in the curve, killing the driver. The tanker spilled 6,800 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel. The fuel soaked into the soil in the area of the roll-over, requiring a clean-up.
W.E.L. Inc. Environmental Services conducted the cleanup, removing all fuel-contaminated soil. W. E. L. employees used digital devices to determine the extent of the contamination. Soil samples were taken at the end to confirm that the cleanup was complete. Once the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality signed off on the cleanup, the next step was to make the road usable again.
According to Jamie Smith, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Salem office, the excavation had made the slope on the the right side of the road unstable. It would no longer support the road. To correct this, W. E. L. had to bring in an engineer to redesign the slope. The soil that had been removed was replaced with rip-rap to make the slope stable. Smith said that VDOT reviewed the engineer’s plans and material and agreed with them.
The final step was to install new guardrails and repave the road.
No taxpayer money was spent on the clean-up and road reconstruction. Watts Petroleum has insurance to cover such costs.
“They paid for everything,” said Smith.
District 6 Supervisor Annie Pollard said that she’s happy to see the east-bound lanes open, but would like to see the curve straightened. The S-curves on U. S. 460 are in Pollard’s district. She provided a copy of a letter sent to her from Bob McMillan, a Thaxton resident, in which he states that VDOT has the necessary right-of-way to straighten the curve.
“I own the property that is in the median of 460 in this area,” he states in the letter. “It has been owned by my family for many years. An amazing fact is that in the mid-1950s, my father sold to Virginia the land needed for the east-bound lane to be straightened and made parallel with the west-bound lane. So over 50 years ago it was recognized that changes needed to be made, but nothing has happened since then.”