People who walk, run and bike along Fredericksburg’s popular trails will have more of them to enjoy in the future.
The new Fredericksburg Pathways Plan includes a bike path, a section of the East Coast Greenway Trail and links to the city’s existing trails as well as some on-street improvements.
“We’re looking at filling in gaps,” said city transportation administrator Erik Nelson, who gave City Council and overview of how the plan will be implemented during a work session Tuesday.
“We have a pretty solid network of nine-plus miles of substantial 10-foot-wide trails,” he said. “A lot of connections need to be made, and there’s not always the real estate to make a 10-foot-wide asphalt connection. Sometimes we have to use on-street, so we’re looking at doing that. This is something that we would need [capital improvement plan] allocations for.”
Planning for the first year of the new Pathways Plan, which will take place in Idlewild, could begin as early as July if City Council approves funding in its next budget, Nelson said.
That phase includes a 1.36-mile bike lane or possibly a shared roadway for bikes and cars on Idlewild Boulevard from U.S. 1 to the development’s community center. Improvements will also be made to two informal trails leading from Idlewild to the Virginia Central Railroad Trailhead.
Nelson said that he plans to meet with Idlewild residents about implementing the first phase soon.
City staff is working up figures for the fiscal year 2020 budget, and will present them to City Council in March. The price tag for a bike lane, or possibly a lane shared with vehicular traffic, could be $50,000 to $60,000, Nelson said.
“The reality is that when you’re putting bikes on streets, there are a lot of safety issues and we’ll have to hire professionals,” he said. “These aren’t quick and dirty projects. You can’t just put down paint.”
The Fredericksburg Pathways Plan is an update of the city’s 2006 plan for integrating safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists into the city’s street network. It was created by a steering committee using input from staff, the public and the Planning Commission with a goal of making neighborhoods safer, interconnected and cohesive. Council members adopted it last summer.
The plan covers five years. Year Two’s focus will include what’s termed the East–West Connector, which will feature 1.78 miles of on-street improvements on Fauquier and Lewis streets from Sophia Street to Washington Avenue, and on Cornell Avenue and Rowe Street as far as Stafford Avenue.
Other parts of the plan include a 220-foot asphalt trail and a 180-foot wood ramp that would connect the Canal Trail to Mary Washington Boulevard, and development of plans to provide a trail along U.S. 1 that would link Idlewild with the VCR Trail. Nelson said that Mary Washington Hospital is interested in working with the city on the connection between the Canal Trail and Mary Washington Boulevard since it owns some of the property.
He said that Year Three looks at frontage along the Rappahannock River since that’s the year the Chatham Bridge will reopen after the Virginia Department of Transportation finishes replacing the superstructure. It will have an 8-foot-wide, shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on the downstream side, which will be part of the East Coast Greenway route from Maine to Miami. Users will get off the bridge near Riverfront Park, which will be their introduction to Fredericksburg.
“I think potential is high there,” Nelson said.
Plans also call for 1.13 miles of on-street improvements along Sophia and Caroline streets from Lafayette Boulevard to the Rappahannock River Heritage Trail, and .51 miles of improvements on the Adams Street/Stafford Avenue corridor from Hanover Street to Rowe Street. Stafford Avenue becomes Adams Street once it crosses Hanover Street.
“This has the potential for a dual purpose.” Nelson said. “As we’re providing that bike connection, there’s potential to add traffic-calming measures. We’ve had issues with Stafford Avenue as a cut through, and have tried certain things that haven’t quite worked. With engineering, we might be able to generate some more benefit from that project.”
Year Four will include nearly a mile of on-street improvements along Kenmore Avenue from Lafayette Boulevard to Mary Washington Street, and a 350-foot trail and bridge from Altoona Drive across North Hazel Run to the existing natural-surface trail around Idlewild.
“If the Lafayette Boulevard roundabouts get funded, this would be a good link from that area toward Cossey [Botanical] Park,” Nelson said.
The last year in the plan would add .61 miles of on-street improvements on Westwood Drive from William Street to Cowan Boulevard and .7 miles of on-street improvements on Airport Avenue from Howison Avenue to Lansdowne Road.
Council member Matt Kelly said that he’d like to see rules about the city’s trails created in order to avoid situations like the one that occurred recently when the council turned down a developers’ request to build an access road from Fall Hill Avenue to Celebrate Virginia South because it would have crossed the trail built when Fall Hill was widened.
The developer, CVAS Properties, filed a petition with Fredericksburg’s Circuit Court that said its side agreement with development of the Celebrate property didn’t preclude a new entrance off Fall Hill. The petition was later withdrawn.
Kelly also said that he had concerns about maintaining and improving the city’s existing trails, and would like to get the public more involved as plans move forward.
“There are a lot of people interested in this,” he said. “I think it’s to our advantage. I know there’s a regional trail group, and they’ve said, ‘Hey how do we get involved?’ ”
Nelson said that Fredericksburg gets some funding from VDOT to maintain its roads.
“We will continue to pursue outside funding, but there is going to be a need, if we’re going to make these connections, for City Council to step up and pony up some funding so these connections get made.”