Town may take a year to study bike trail options

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, March 1, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

It could be another calendar year before the proposed Smithfield Bike and Pedestrian Trail comes back to Town Council for a decision.

In December, the town passed a resolution to allocate funds to perform a study of the impact of three potential routes for the path, which would ideally connect to Isle of Wight County’s multi-use path, which is slated to stretch from Nike Park to Battery Park Road, thereby connecting Nike Park with Windsor Castle Park.

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The town has not started the study, however, as it is awaiting approval of its application from the Virginia Department of Transportation, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson.

The money slated to be used for the study will come out of the town’s urban fund, which contains federal funds left over from a previous VDOT-funded project for the town. The town budgeted $21,000 for the bike trail study, as well as two other studies and designs, including for a turn lane at the Joseph Luter Jr. sports complex, and a study of the intersection of Benn’s Church and South Church Street in front of Food Lion. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The town sent in applications for what is called a Locally Administered Project (LAP) to VDOT for all three projects. If the applications are approved, it will give the town the authority to oversee and manage the three projects, and thus be eligible to receive a financial reimbursement from VDOT out of the urban fund.

The applications have to go through VDOT’s Hampton Roads office, and then again to its central office in Richmond before it finally gets back to the town. So it’s slow going for now.

“Once we get those signed papers back, we can give our consultant the green light to start,” Stephenson said.

Kimley Horn Associates is currently lined up to perform the bike trail study, which will take about six to eight months to complete, according to Stephenson.

“Depending how much longer it takes, I’m hoping that we can be fairly far along at least by the end of the calendar year,” Stephenson said of the bike trail study.

Of the three projects, the bike trail study will likely be the quickest of the bunch to complete, with the intersection study and design expected to take a long time, Stephenson said. As for the turn lane, “We’ll be working on that after the ball fields open.”

Once the three applications are approved, all three projects can occur simultaneously, so one does not necessarily take precedent over another, according to Stephenson.

“They all are going to live their own lives,” he said of the projects.

The Smithfield portion of the Park to Park Bike and Pedestrian Trail has been a subject of debate for the Town Council for over a year.

The pending study will look at three different routes for the trail, including both sides of South Church Street, straight to Cypress Creek Bridge, and two variations on either side down John Rolfe Drive or Grimes Street.

In order for the trail to be considered “multi-use” and accommodate for both bikes and pedestrians, it would need to be about 10-feet wide, the impact of which would also be addressed in the study.  {/mprestriction}