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Route 5 study underway

The future of the Route 5 corridor began to take shape last month at Varina High School.

There, about 200 people attended a public information meeting to offer their opinions about traffic problems and transportation solutions along the seven-mile stretch of Route 5 from 7th Street in the city to Laburnum Avenue in Henrico. They also offered suggestions about what types of pedestrian and bicycle paths and road expansion plans they would like to see as part of the eventual growth of the corridor.

The meeting, hosted by Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. on behalf of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission, was one of the first steps in an 18-month study of the Route 5 corridor by six entities. The study – a partnership between Henrico, Richmond, VDOT, the GRTC Transit System, the RRPDC and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation – is designed to create a long-range master plan for a corridor that encompasses urban, suburban and rural areas – and one that will witness much growth in the coming years. Officials hope to establish plans for a variety of transportation options – from pedestrian paths to bus rapid transit service, bicycles and automobiles.

Planners envision the corridor becoming a friendly stretch for walkers, joggers and cyclists, among others.

“We’re starting with a blank slate,” RRPDC Principal Planner Lee Yolton told those in attendance. “We’re looking for your vision. There is going to be a lot of future development. We want to try to get ahead of the curve.”

In addition to the continuing growth of Rocketts Landing, located on the city-county line, the corridor will feel a significant impact from the development of Tree Hill Farm, just a mile or so east of Rocketts Landing. That project hasn’t yet started but is expected ultimately to produce as many as 2,800 residences and 1.16 million square feet of office space. Farther east, near the Pocahontas Parkway, another huge mixed-use development – Wilton on the James – will bring another 3,200 homes and a town center for office and commercial space.

Some attendees complained about rush-hour traffic – particularly in the morning, when it can be difficult to enter Route 5 from feeder roads because of the steady parade of traffic.

Varina resident Ron Roane said he worries when he sees cyclists and pedestrians making their way along Route 5 on stretches where there are no shoulders. He’s like to see the road widened, or turning lanes added, to alleviate some of the most congested intersections.

Varina resident Nicole Anderson Ellis would prefer that the road not be widened but that sidewalks with physical barriers be erected to provide a safe place for cyclists and walkers, while maintaining the historical nature of Route 5 (which is designed a Virginia Scenic Byway).

Resident Jeanne McNeil was lukewarm about the idea of widening Route 5, saying it was important to preserve the road’s rural character but also important to create a separate path for walkers and cyclists.

“People have to be really steady bike riders” to use Route 5 in its current form, she said.

Another resident, Charles Hoover, said he’s already witnessed three serious auto accidents near his home on Route 5 in the past year but doesn’t want to see major changes to Route 5 that could threaten the region’s rural environment.

Local residents Carlton Marshall and Tom Flynn both said they would worry about a bottleneck effect if portions of Route 5 were widened and others weren’t.

Kimley-Horn planner Carl Tewksbury told the Citizen that the corridor presented unique challenges and opportunities because of how quickly it transcends several types of areas and, potentially, several modes of transportation.

“We’re understanding more about how to accommodate all modes,” he said. “It’s really important how we transition from urban to rural.”

As part of the study, officials already have conducted traffic counts along the entire corridor and rated (on a scale of “A” to “F”) each intersection’s ability to handle traffic during morning and evening rush-hour commutes. The Williamsburg Avenue intersection rated the worst during morning traffic (rating at the “D” level) but rated closer to the “A/B” level during afternoon commutes.

Capital Trail discussed
Much of the discussion among those who attended the forum centered around plans for the 54-mile Virginia Capital Trail, a state project funded primarily by federal dollars that will connect Williamsburg with Richmond and provide a path for bikers, walkers, skaters and other forms of non-automobile transportation.

The trail mostly will follow Route 5 and primarily be separated from the road. But a feasibility study conducted for VDOT by a consultant in the late 1990s recommended that most of the 9.5-mile Henrico portion of the trail be connected to the road as a wide shoulder or bike lane. That recommendation was made, according to Capital Trail Project Manager Ian Millikan of VDOT, because officials believed it could be difficult to obtain right of way from property owners to build the trail separately.

Several bicycle enthusiasts who attended the meeting urged anyone who would listen to support a plan for a separate path. Bud Vye, the advocacy chairman for the Richmond Area Bicycling Association, said that attaching the trail to Route 5 would be a mistake.

“We just don’t want our segment to be the only substandard one – and it will be if this goes through like this,” Vye said.

The organization’s members are primarily those who enjoy riding recreationally and not competitively, Vye said. Many are hesitant to bike along Route 5 now because of the high speed limits and lack of shoulders or bike lanes. Creating a separate path off the road would open the historic corridor to many more people, he said.

Thomas Bowden, an attorney and chairman of Bike Walk Virginia’s advocacy committee, agreed. Making the entire trail separate from the road would create a more user-friendly path that could serve as a strong tourist attraction, he said. But “it won’t get use if it’s disjointed,” he said.

Though last month’s meeting sought input about the entire corridor – including thoughts and ideas about what form the trail should take – the event was not connected to trail project itself, which is being completed separately by VDOT. VDOT intends to hold a public information session specifically to solicit input about the Varina portion of the trail (from the Richmond city line to Long Bridge Road) later this year or in early 2011, Millikan said. The agency could make changes to its plans for the trail’s location afterwards, he said. (Details about the trail can be viewed online at http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/newcaptrail_welcome.asp). Construction of the Varina portion is expected to cost between $8 million and $9 million.

About 14 miles of the trail near Williamsburg are currently open; the entire trail is expected to be completed by 2014 or 2015, Millikan said.

Next steps
Officials next will conduct an analysis of existing conditions along the corridor, then try to project future conditions and analyze those before developing conceptual plans to address late this year and into early 2011. A concept plan will be issued early next year, Tewksbury said, and then two more public meetings will be held in March and May. Officials will issue a draft report sometime next summer or fall, he said.

For details about the Route 5 Corridor Study, or to provide input, visit http://www.Route5Corridor.com.
– Allison Throckmorton contributed to this article.
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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