Bicycle paths proposed to connect NK, CC courthouses
A multimillion-dollar project aimed at creating bicycle paths linking New Kent Courthouse and Charles City Courthouse is nearing the start of its first phase. When all phases are completed, bicycle lanes will flank both sides of the entire length of Route 155 through New Kent and Charles City, making the road safer for bicyclists and motorists, officials close to the project say.
Plans are now in works for phase one in New Kent, starting on the north side of the new bridge over the Chickahominy River canal on 155, just north of the Charles City line. Phase one then extends through Providence Forge on 155 and continues north to the intersection with Old Forge Road.
Work entails adding three-foot-wide paved shoulders and one-foot-wide grass shoulders on either side of 155, except for about a half-mile stretch of the road as its passes through the Providence Forge village area.
Route 155 is a two-lane road with travel lanes varying in width from nine to 11 feet. Part of the project involves adding pavement where needed to create a standard travel lane width of 11 feet.
“The real benefits of this project are for motorists since there’s significant added safety of not having wheels drop off the pavement,” said New Kent community development director George Homewood. “It also moves bicyclists off the main travel lanes so motorists don’t have slow down and wait for a safe place to pass.”
Ian Milligan, VDOT project manager, said $5.9 million has been set aside so far for the project. The money comes from a federal grant administered by the Richmond Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Milligan estimates cost for the first phase at $3.5-$4 million. About half of the price tag covers actual construction, he said. The remainder goes into design and engineering fees and purchasing right of way. Per mile cost of the project is in the $1.5-$2 million range, he added.
“We have to widen and set a new ditch line so we have to negotiate with all property owners on 155, and that drives up the cost,” he said. “We’re trying not to impact any property owners or as few as we possibly can.”
VDOT has issued what Milligan termed “willingness to hold a public hearing” on the project’s first phase. Notices have been sent by certified mail to property owners involved, but thus far only to those impacted by phase one.
Property owners have until Feb. 26 to respond, Milligan said, adding if no one requests a hearing, design work on the first phase will proceed. Construction work could begin in 2012, he said.
Phase two of the project is not in the works for now, but is slated to start at Old Forge Road and head north to the entrance to Colonial Downs and Brickshire. Milligan said what remains of the $5.9 million now available will be sunk into phase two. New Kent officials, he said, already have requested more money from the MPO.
From there, Homewood said, the project could hit a snag. “We’ll have to figure how to safely get bikes under Interstate 64, but that’s a long way off,” he said.
Eventually, the project is slated to continue north on 155 to the Route 249 intersection and then head east to New Kent Courthouse.
“It will be four, five, six years before we’ll need money for that, so there’s no sense in tying up resources now,” Homewood said.
Milligan said the project’s Charles City phase is several years down the road and is the final phase with no funding as yet in place. But when completed, the 155 paths will link with the Virginia Capital Trial, which eventually will run along Route 5 through Charles City connecting Richmond and Jamestown.
“Once everything is done,” Milligan said, “this will be one big, friendly bike corridor.”