Parkway completion ends four-decade wait
Officials dedicate final stretch of John Rolfe in Short Pump
Residents of the nearby Eagles Creek and Eagles Ridge communities joined in the party with county supervisors, planning commission members, and public works officials – not to mention eager motorists – as Henrico County celebrated the long-awaited completion of the John Rolfe Parkway with a Nov. 8 ribbon-cutting ceremony at John Rolfe Commons.
As the traffic barriers were cleared away following the ceremony, motorists were already waiting to proceed from Ridgefield Parkway to Pump Road and beyond, while children clapped and skipped and neighbors snapped pictures.
A motorcyclist who lives nearby was the first to travel the length of the parkway after getting in line behind the police cruiser that swept the newly opened stretch of road.
Opening Phase II of the John Rolfe Parkway (JRP) to traffic marked the culmination of more than four decades of planning and construction for the project.
The four-lane, divided roadway, which serves as a north-south connector providing western Henrico residents with direct access to West Broad Street, was originally designed as the path for Route 288.
Long time coming
"Where we're standing," said Department of Public Works Director Tim Foster in remarks preceding the ceremony, "was supposed to be a cloverleaf interchange [for Route 288]."
Following the Commonwealth Transportation Board's 1988 decision to adopt a western alignment for 288 – which now traverses the eastern end of Goochland County – Henrico officials spent a decade reworking the plans, holding hearings and completing the segment of the parkway from Lauderdale Road to Ridgefield Parkway.
It took another decade or so of hearings, route proposals and give-and-take with state and federal agencies before construction on the Phase I portion from Pump Road to West Broad St. could be completed this year.
Prior to the ceremony, Henrico officials could not resist poking fun at the amount of time the project has been in the works.
"It's been 400 years in the making," joked Foster, in a reference to the county's 400th anniversary.
"This project has taken so long that John Rolfe himself could have had a hand in it."
Henrico County Manager Virgil Hazelett pointed out that he first heard of the road project when he was a traffic engineer in the Department of Public Works.
In the span of time since 1966, when Henrico officials requested a study of the proposed route for 288 from the Virginia Department of Transportation, four different county managers and seven different directors of Public Works have had to deal with the project.
"I never thought 40 years ago – no one was aware then – that this would take so long," said Hazelett.
After Route 288 moved west in 1988, Hazelett recalled, he was in a meeting where officials were munching bagels as they brainstormed a new name for the road.
Before the creative juices started flowing and officials arrived at the name of John Rolfe, said Hazelett with a chuckle, one participant amused the group by proposing in jest that they designate the road "Bagel Boulevard."
Ironically enough, after decades of delayed attempts to finish the road, Phase II was finished almost five months ahead of schedule. The completed JRP is expected to ease traffic congestion in Short Pump as well as relieving traffic on roads such as Ridgefield, Lauderdale and Pump. In addition, it's possible that the convenient new corridor will help businesses along John Rolfe and Ridgefield to pick up new customers.
Tuckahoe Supervisor Pat O'Bannon -– who peppered her remarks with references to road signs and traffic hazards as she described the project's "bumpy timeline [abundant with] stops, starts, and yielding" – drew the loudest applause of the day as she summed up her feelings about the completed road.
"TGIF!" exclaimed O'Bannon in closing. "Thank goodness it's finished!"
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