Contact Carly: Officials in touch with Cane's about 'chicken strip' traffic
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Cane's, Popeyes and Kentucky Fried Chicken all line up in a row along Seminole Trail. The stretch of road has earned the nickname "chicken strip" or "chicken alley" and has become somewhat of a meme.
But it's also become a real problem.
If you live in Charlottesville, you've likely seen it and you might have even been in it: the long Raising Cane's drive-thru line that bleeds onto Route 29.
The line sometimes backs all the way up to the intersection at Hydraulic.
"The last thing anybody wants is a headline of, you know, 'dying to get chicken,'" said Brennen Duncan, Charlottesville's city traffic engineer.
The Charlottesville Police Department says between May 1 and Nov. 1, there were 10 reported accidents in that area.
The location of the chicken restaurant is right before the ramp to get onto the 250 Bypass. People trying to get onto the highway accidentally end up in a long line by Cane's.
"People try to change lanes, and the traffic is coming fast on the middle lanes, and that's when the accidents happen here," said Charanjeet Ghotra, the owner of Milan, the restaurant next to Cane's.
Ghotra said he started really noticing the bad traffic six to eight months ago, adding that the cars are blocking his customers from coming in.
"They even ask us to deliver the food on the street because they can't get in and out," Ghotra said.
There are multiple causes of the highway headache.
For starters, Cane's dining room is closed because it needs more staff, which is a problem hurting restaurants nationwide. That means all of its customers are drive-thru, which has perpetuated the problem.
"They have had issues all over the country. Some of the corporate managers and stuff have even been drafted to come in and be fry-cooks and work in the restaurants," Duncan said.
The backed-up road is also related to zoning. The building was constructed before 2003, which was the year restaurants in that zoning area were required to get a special permit through the city to be a drive-thru.
Under that special permit, restaurants would work with the city traffic engineer to design a site that would accommodate more vehicles. If they couldn't do it, the permit would be denied.
In the case of Cane's, it was grandfathered in. The only way for it to retroactively be in compliance is for the building to be demolished and built as something new.
Duncan has already considered a few options to help, but none have seemed to really be effective.
"There's really not a whole lot we can do in this particular location. We can't shut down a whole lane of travel and designate it as the drive-thru lane, nor would we want to," he said.
Duncan also added that they have tried to establish two drive-thru lines at the location, but it doesn't substantially reduce the cars.
CPD erected a sign telling people to avoid stopping in a travel lane, as it is against the law to stop in a travel lane. Police haven't exercised their full authority to pull people over but could start giving tickets.
"We really don't want to ticket people who just want a piece of chicken," Duncan said.
After working on this story, CBS19 saw on Monday that there were two drive-thru lines at the restaurant and there were people directing cars. They said they were contracted by Cane's and began on Sunday.
Duncan also said that they've been in touch with Cane's and are hoping to have a meeting about solutions this upcoming week.
Meanwhile, officials ask that people keep driving if they see the drive-thru line feeding onto the main road.
This is a developing story.