Smithfield to move forward with bike trail

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Smithfield’s Town Council voted June 1 to move forward with the town-funded portion of Isle of Wight County’s park-to-park trail.

The matter was included in the meeting’s consent agenda, which the Town Council voted unanimously to approve.

When completed, the project will provide bicycle and pedestrian access between Carrollton’s Nike Park and Smithfield’s Windsor Castle Park.

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Currently, the trail spans down Nike Park and Battery Park roads to Battery Park’s intersection with South Church Street. The county has scheduled a June 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony for its portion of the project at 10 a.m. in Nike Park’s senior building.

The town-funded portion will involve constructing 8-foot asphalt paths down the east side of South Church Street to connect with the Cypress Creek Bridge and existing brick paver sidewalks leading to Windsor Castle Park. As such, the town will need to submit a design waiver application to the Virginia Department of Transportation to permit the designated multi-use path to be less than VDOT’s standard 10-foot width.

A recently completed engineering survey concluded the town’s right-of-way and utility relocation needs would be similar regardless of whether the trail were built on the east or west side of South Church Street. But there’s already a wide shoulder on the east side of the Cypress Creek Bridge, whereas the west side has a 4-foot concrete sidewalk, which VDOT representatives told town officials would be difficult to widen.

Town Manager Michael Stallings said it was too early to tell when construction of the town’s portion might begin or when it would be complete.

“We still have to do the design work and then locate funding,” Stallings said.

And there’s another factor that may affect when the trail actually connects one park to the other: VDOT is planning to begin its Cypress Creek Bridge project in 2022, which will involve rebuilding the structure’s first three spans and making various other repairs. Once the work begins, the bridge will be closed save for a single travel lane with alternating one-way vehicle traffic continuing for the next two years.

As of 2019, Smithfield’s portion of the bike trail was projected to cost between $2.5 million and $3.3 million. But Stallings couldn’t say whether the project will be on the costlier or cheaper side of that range based on the decision to go with an 8-foot asphalt path over the 5-foot concrete sidewalk option.

“We have not done any cost analysis on the two alternatives,” Stallings said.

The 8-foot path will allow greater room for two-way bicycle traffic, while the 5-foot sidewalk didn’t really meet the purpose of the project, he said.

“We will have a better cost estimate after we do further design work,” Stallings said.

The engineering survey cost the town around $62,000.

The county’s portion of the project has been estimated at roughly $6 million, with just over $4 million coming from grant money. Though all work will be complete by the end of this month, Assistant County Administrator Don Robertson said Isle of Wight won’t have the final number for the county’s cost until all remaining expenses have been paid.