Long-range plans to add lanes to Lafayette Boulevard in Fredericksburg will be getting a second look.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve $62,500 for its half of the transit component of the Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Lafayette Boulevard Corridor Study. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit will pay the other half.
This frees up Regional Surface Transportation Program funds so FAMPO can do a study of the road this fiscal year instead of fiscal year 2020. It will determine if the proposed four-lane configuration is still necessary or if a three-lane option is feasible.
"We’re being somewhat aggressive in looking to get these two projects out of the way so we can be well positioned to take advantage of future funding opportunities [for Lafayette Boulevard]," Erik Nelson, the city's transportation planner, told council members.
This historic southern gateway to Fredericksburg is the last unimproved corridor in the city. Long-range transportation plans have called for the entire route to be expanded to a four-lane, divided roadway since 1991. This would require taking and demolishing dozens of houses, businesses and churches along its length, which stretches from the Blue and Gray Parkway to Four-Mile Fork.
Those plans may no longer be valid, however, with today's increased emphasis on planning for multiple modes of transportation, according to Nelson. Any roadway improvements would need to include bicycle and pedestrian components.
In his memorandum to City Council, Nelson said that a three-lane option would have two southbound lanes and one northbound lane. Other study details could include roundabouts. In that scenario, all turns onto Lafayette Boulevard could be right turns, with traffic using a roundabout to get turned around to go in the other direction.
"I am very gratified to see that we are moving aggressively on improving Lafayette Boulevard, for pedestrian safety if nothing else," said Council member Tim Duffy. "So many middle school students walk along that road. I really hope we can get support to move this forward as aggressively as we can."
Duffy was the assistant principal at Walker–Grant Middle School until this school year, when he became an assistant principal at James Monroe High School.
Lafayette Boulevard began life as the road connecting Spotsylvania County and what was then a port on the Rappahannock River. It became part of the U.S. 1 corridor between Maine and Florida, and once served critical local, regional, and interstate purposes.
That changed with the construction of Jefferson Davis Highway and, later, Interstate 95. Today it's primarily an important collector street, connecting residential and commercial areas of Spotsylvania with Fredericksburg's historic downtown. It's also the route many use to get to the train station so they can board Amtrak or the Virginia Railway Express.
VRE and high-speed rail are expected to bring more riders to the city's station, according to Nelson. The transit study the city is helping fund will look at potential satellite parking and shuttle service since nearby parking for rail users is limited by the both available land and the road network.
In return for the $62,5000 City Council approved for the project, FAMPO will reserve $62,500 in Regional Surface Transportation Program (RSTP) funds for any project the city chooses.
In other business, City Council also voted unanimously to approve City Code amendments that prohibit swimming, bathing, ice skating, boating and other uses of the Rappahannock Canal without prior written permission.
The changes were made for several reasons, including damage that could be done to the canal’s steep banks and its delicate aeration system.
Council also amended the code to prohibit putting boats or other watercraft in Cossey Pond unless authorized for maintenance and cleanup.