Regional bike trail to pass through Surry, IW

Published 5:38 pm Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization hopes to begin construction of its proposed Birthplace of America bicycle trail within the next three to five years.

Once completed, the roughly 140-plus-mile trail will connect Richmond with Virginia Beach — with about 30 miles passing through Surry and Isle of Wight counties.

According to a March 23 map of the proposed route, new sections of trail will begin in James City County where the 52-mile Virginia Capital Trail connecting Richmond with Williamsburg currently ends. There, bikers will travel across the James River to Surry County via the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, where the trail will follow Rolfe Highway and Route 10 through downtown Surry and Smithfield all the way to Kings Fork and Pitchkettle roads in Suffolk. From there, it will connect with the planned 41-mile South Hampton Roads Trail from downtown Suffolk to Virginia Beach, portions of which have already been completed.

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Plans for the Birthplace of America trail — sometimes nicknamed BoAT — began in 2017 with a study commissioned by the HRTPO and the Virginia Department of Transportation, intended to create the centerpiece of a regional active transportation system.

From James City County, bikers will be able to follow either an 83-mile trail encircling the Peninsula and Fort Monroe or the roughly 86-mile stretch from Surry to Virginia Beach.

In 2018, the nonprofit Tidewater Trails Alliance formed for the purpose of funding construction. Its board members and advisors include representatives of each locality the trail is to pass through.

“We will be exploring state and federal grant sources,” said HRTPO Executive Director Robert Crum.

The portions of trail south of the James River are planned to tie into the existing Elizabeth River Trail through Norfolk. The portion through downtown Smithfield is proposed to run alongside Main Street and South Church Street, potentially intersecting the town-funded portion of Isle of Wight County’s park-to-park trail — intended to connect Smithfield’s Windsor Castle Park with Nike Park in Carrollton.

As of 2019, the town’s portion of the park-to-park trail was projected to cost anywhere from $2.5 million to $3.3 million depending on whether Smithfield opts for a five-foot concrete sidewalk versus a 10-foot asphalt trail, and the route the town chooses.

The town has funded a $62,247.72 engineering survey, which Town Manager Michael Stallings expects will conclude this week. Then, it’s another three weeks before Smithfield’s Town Council receives the report. The council might see a final cost estimate and make its decision by the end of April.

The county’s portion, which spans Nike Park Road and Battery Park Road, has been under construction for several years at a total cost of roughly $6 million. Of this, more than $4 million has come from state and federal grants.

It was originally budgeted at $4.1 million, but was over budget by roughly $2 million in 2017 — resulting in the county reallocating funds it had planned to spend on Route 620 road repairs to cover the shortfall and avoid having to repay money it had received in state and federal reimbursements for the project.

If and where the county’s or town’s portion of the park-to-park trail will connect with the Birth of America Trail will be determined “as the planning and design work for this effort proceeds,” Crum said.