Church members hold fast on CC bicycle route preference
Parrish Hill Baptist Church’s position on routing for the Virginia Capital Trail along Route 5 in Charles City remains unchanged. Church officials and the congregation want the bicycle trail to run on the north side of Route 5 and not the south side where it would bisect the church’s parking lot.
More than a year ago, church officials made their case before the Virginia Department of Transportation, the agency in charge of construction. And at a Sept. 9 VDOT-sponsored public hearing inside the Charles City government building on what is dubbed the “Courthouse East Phase” of the trail, they reiterated their stance.
Citing safety concerns, church officials are adamantly opposed to the trail crossing church property. Their concerns, however, could take a back seat to economics when the matter lands later this year before the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the group charged with making a final decision.
Projected cost of a trail on the north side of Route 5 is $800,000 more than building on the south side in front of the church. But church members remain undeterred.
“Our position hasn’t changed. We want the north option,” said church clerk Yvonne Smith-Jones during an interview at the Sept. 9 hearing. “The north side provides continuity for bikers. There are no houses on the north side so they can ride leisurely and not disturb anyone.”
“Our main concern is about the church parking lot,” she said. “We have a lot of services and a lot of visitors and there’s a safety concern there. We’re concerned that things are done that are going to make everybody safe. We’ll be following this up with a letter from our board of trustees, giving [VDOT] our position on the best interests and safety of the citizens living in the area.”
The public comment period on the trail route issue ended Sept. 19. VDOT officials say all comments are being compiled and evaluated. Design approval is expected later this year with right of way acquisition slated to begin next spring. Construction work is forecast to start in spring 2012.
The 2.36-mile phase extends from Charles City Courthouse eastward to a point about a half-mile east of Parrish Hill Church. If the southern route is approved, the trail will run past the church and cross to the north side of Route 5 west of Burlington Plantation, continuing along the north side to the Chickahominy River bridge. Should the north option win out, the path would cross over to the north side just east of the entrance to Belle Air Plantation and remain there all the way to the bridge.
Estimated cost of the south option is $2.8 million compared to $3.6 million for the north route. VDOT project director Ian Millikan said the difference lies in a longer, more expensive bridge to span Parrish Hill Creek.
“The bridge would have to be longer, taller, and steel construction as opposed to a wooden structure on the south side,” he said.
More wetlands and a historical site where the New Hope Community once stood near The Glebe Lane intersection would be impacted by a northern route, Millikan said. Shovel tests conducted at the New Hope site have unearthed some artifacts, he added.
VDOT district administrator Tom Hawthorne said progress on the trail phase has been delayed due to update of an environmental study on the north option.
“We’re here to bring back documentation on the north side for public comment, and that’s what we’re doing now,” he said. “After the public comment period is over, we’ll make a recommendation to the CTB and they’ll select a location.”