Urban funds to examine bike trail

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Smithfield looking at three options

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Smithfield Town Council members voted to reallocate money from the county’s urban fund for a study that would reexamine the impact of three possible routes for

the proposed Park-to-Park Bike and Pedestrian Trail.

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Those three options include South Church Street or two variations on either side down John Rolfe Drive or Grimes Street.

The reallocation of the funds still needs to be approved by VDOT, which will examine the scope of the proposed study and determine whether it is suitable for the urban funds, according to Planning and Zoning Commissioner William Saunders. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

VDOT had given Smithfield a deadline of Dec. 1 to pass the resolution on whether it would seek to reallocate the funds or not.

Kimley-Horn and Associates, which is slated to perform the more in-depth study for the council pending VDOT approval, is asking for a budget of $20,276.04 from the town.

Overall, there are three segments for the county’s park-to-park trail. The first of these goes down Battery Park Road, and the second connects and then proceeds down Nike Park Road to Carrollton Nike Park.

The designs and planning for both of these first two 10-foot-wide multi-use segments have been completed by Isle of Wight County and are moving toward their final stages before the county begins bidding them out for construction, according to Saunders.

The third segment is where the town of Smithfield becomes involved and some of the more head-scratching issues begin.

In order for the Park-to- Park Bike Trail to live up to its name, segment three would need to find a way to connect with Cypress Creek Bridge on South Church Street, which would allow for a sustained path from Nike Park to Windsor Castle Park.

The question that the town council has been hung up on is how best to make that connection happen.

This is where the three routes the council wants to examine come into play.

The first, and what Saunders called the “most logical” route, would be for the trail to go down the east side of South Church Street, on the side of Famers Bank and the Smithfield Police Department, a straight shot to the bridge after turning right on the end of Battery Park Road.

However, a concern raised by the council has been the impact of that route on South Church Street businesses, which, despite the possible benefit of an increase in foot traffic, would undoubtedly lose considerable frontage or parking space from a 10- foot wide multi-use path on the street.

The next option slated for a dissection by Kimley-Horn would be a route that would cut down John Rolfe Drive off of Battery Park, and then hang a left on Lumar Road, effectively bypassing the businesses on South Church.

However, while John Rolfe Drive has the ideal shoulder width for the proposed trail, Lumar Road does not.

Indeed, as much as John Rolfe is wide, Lumar Road is narrow, and the installation of the trail would likely cause issues for the short yards on the residential road, according to  Saunders.

The final option the council wants more details on would be for the trail to swing down Grimes Street and then up either Wilson or Magruder roads before coming out back onto South Church from Talbot Drive next to the DMV.

The issue with a Grimes Street trail would be cyclists and pedestrians having to cross the busy South Church Street twice while making their way to the bridge; first to get to Grimes across the road from Battery Park, and then again when coming out of Talbot Drive, as the north side of the bridge has a shoulder that users of the trail would have to cross the street to avoid, a shoulder which  would also pose a problem should the trail be stationed on the north side of South Church Street.

The only two routes that would not have to cross South Church Street twice would be if the trail continued down the east side of the street out of Battery Park Road, or down John Rolfe and out at Lumar Road.

“There’s really no good answer,” said Saunders of the route options available.

“There’s going to be a choke point or an issue no matter where you go. But it’s just a matter of figuring out what the design alternatives are and getting feedback on them from the citizens as well as the elected officials and determine the best course of action.”

Smithfield is planning to provide $1 million for the trail, VDOT urban funds that were left over from a South Church Street beautification project.

The county project as a whole, which is managed by Isle of Wight County Project

Manager Jamie Oliver, is estimated to cost nearly $8 million and has been in the planning stage since 2006. The funding is a combination of Isle of Wight County and Smithfield monies, as well as VDOT transportation grants.

Multiple residents spoke out in favor of the parkto- park path at last week’s town council meeting, stating that it would instill growth in the community.

Cristin Emrick told the council she had moved to Smithfield as part of a military family, and due to all of the projects currently in the works for the town, she

plans to stay.

“I am really excited that this project is looking like it might come to fruition,” said Emrick of the trail.

“This is just one of those things that would make life just so much better for our family.”

Leah Dempsey of Carrollton said she has been a supporter of the park-to-park trail since it was first proposed by the county.

While she acknowledges challenges the trail routes are up against, she advocated the use of funds for further studies.

“Things can’t get resolved until more studies are done,” Dempsey said to the council.

On the flip side, opponents of the project cite the high cost in light of other transportation needs, as well questioning the actual frequency of use by county residents.  {/mprestriction}