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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."

Bagel Boulevard?
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."

TGIF
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!"

Readers: How has the completion of the John Rolfe Parkway helped (or hindered) you? Has it helped shorten your commute? Saved time on shopping trips, or trips to soccer practice? Noticeably relieved traffic on other nearby roadways? Send your comments to Patty Kruszewski (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) for possible inclusion in a future update concerning the JRP and its usage.


Community

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden raises admission $1

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s admission has increased by $1 across all categories. Admission is now $12 for adults; $11 for seniors ages 55 and older; and $8 for children ages 3–12. Admission remains free for children ages 3 and younger and for members.

The last price increase was in 2011, before the Garden consistently hosted Butterflies LIVE! (which is included with admission). > Read more.

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

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Entertainment

US Army Field Band to perform in Henrico Aug. 3

The United States Army Field Band will present a free public performance at Deep Run Park in Henrico on Sunday, Aug 3 at 3 p.m.

Members of the band are soldiers who also serve as “musical ambassadors of the Army” and perform for schools and communities nationwide.

The Concert Band will be performing along with the Soldiers’ Chorus. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Take in a show at several locations this weekend! West End Comedy will provide laughs at HATTheatre; the production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes” will close Sunday; and the youth theatre company CharacterWorks will present “Footloose” at The Steward School. Another show perfect for the kids – “Despicable Me 2” is playing at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center tonight. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Is there an Echo in here?

‘Earth to Echo’ aims to become this generation’s ‘ET’
It’s no secret that all found-footage genre movies are the same. Grab a couple of characters, give one of them a camera, and expose them to something supernatural that’s content to lurk just off-screen until the last five minutes. Everything else will just fall into place.

But that formula isn’t particularly family friendly, if only because that thing waiting a few feet to the left of the cast is usually plotting their violent doom.

That’s what sets Earth to Echo apart from the pack. It, too, follows a group of characters armed with a camera and a tendency to encounter unknown life forms. But all those familiar parts have been rearranged just enough to make it suitable for a much younger audience. > Read more.

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