Rural traffic always depends on the time of day, time of year and how close you are to town or industrial plant. In Surry County the Jamestown ferry arrival also releases a small surge of vehicles. Otherwise mid day is the lightest traffic and best time to travel. The worst traffic is an afternoon rush hour in Isle of Wight near the James River bridge and around Smithfield. A major shipyard in Newport News on the other end of the bridge starts releasing workers around 3 PM. School buses are on the roads by this time during the school year. Smithfield Foods in Smithfield also has a shift change. Such changes occur at night and in the morning for the shipyard, power plants and Smithfield Foods, all of which work around the clock, so there are cars leaving as well as entering these areas at turnover times.
During peak traffic times the only major delay is at traffic lights where one has to wait an extra light cycle to pass through. Traffic and travel times are slowly increasing due to new housing, traffic lights and shopping centers in Isle of Wight.
Bridge lifts on the James River bridge are an irregular factor to consider. The lifts for tests and for river traffic occur about once every other day. Traffic is stopped for a minimum of twenty minutes each time. Unfortunately the movable span has stuck open several times a year due to very hot or very cold weather. The bridge is a six mile span and once on it you can’t get off when traffic stops. A weak radio station at 640AM run by the Virginia Dept of Transportation gives moderately useful information about bridge lifts as will the cell phone number 511. Commercial radio stations give bridge lift information for rush hours. A detour around the bridge takes a minimum of one hour.
A ferry operates across the James River in Surry County. It will stop operation during bad storms. Storms of this severity may also prevent use of the James River Bridge. The ferry route covered by three vessels takes about fifteen minutes once aboard and moving. Each vessel holds about sixty cars. Very rarely must you wait for a second ferry once you’re in line to get aboard. However, the Jamestown Settlement is at the other end and has just begun a 400th anniversary celebration that lasts throughout 2007. Ferry traffic will certainly be much heavier this summer than past summers, and summers are always the peak period since Colonial Williamsburg is next to Jamestown and enjoys a regular influx of summer visitors.
A nuclear power plant in Surry County operates around the clock and once or twice a year shuts down for maintenance. This will add 1000 more vehicles to traffic congestion from repair crews and sometimes a large, slow-moving large crane or similar vehicle.
Infrequent traffic problems peculiar to this area include slow moving farm vehicles, logging trucks, dump trucks and hog haulers. Hog trucks include an odor and sometimes liquids that are best avoided by staying well back or quickly passing. It doesn’t always matter whether hogs are present. Hog trucks are 18 wheelers with metallic trailers equipped with many vertical ventilation slots and two levels of occupancy.
A large quarry operation exists near south of Smithfield which adds a steady trickle of dump trucks coming and going. These are usually loaded with dirt and are covered, so should pose no problem.
Lastly, these are county roads and some have no shoulders or bad ditches where fatalities are more common than freeways, so drive defensively.