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Richmond staff outlines to-do list of transportation infrastructure projects

An urban intersection with cars driving and people walking on a sidewalk
Scott Elmquist
VPM News
Richmond's planned capital improvements include adding curb extensions to several Fan District intersections along Main and Cary streets.

From adding sidewalks to extending curbs, the city looks to ramp up its goal of making streets safer and more equitable.

Richmond city staff laid out a to-do list of street and other infrastructure upgrades for city council members this week at a budget work session. It’s all part of Mayor Levar Stoney’s $3 billion proposed budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023.

Major undertakings — like school construction and transportation infrastructure fixes — are included in the budget as the city’s Capital Improvement Plan, which maps out spending on such projects for the next five fiscal years.

In total, the CIP proposes spending about $1.6 billion during the next five fiscal years on capital improvement projects, Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders told City Council at the meeting. Of that, about $264 million would be dedicated to transportation infrastructure improvements, Saunders said, “such as traffic signals, lighting and complete streets and upgrades that support public safety and community well-being."

While most of the capital projects will be financed by bonds issued by the city, about half of funding for transportation projects will come from various state, federal and regional grants.

A pie chart showing where general fund CIP spending would go: $217,500,000 (29%) to education; $62,392,152 (8%) to vehicle and equipment; $139,545,738 (19%) to transportation from G.0O. bonds; $124,217,981 (17%) to transportation from grants; $81,464,131 (11%) for capital maintenance; and $114,350,000 (16%) for capital investments.
Lincoln Saunders
Courtesy city of Richmond
Of the $1.6 billion dollars in proposed CIP funding, $739.5 million comes from general fund revenues.

Public safety and community well-being is on the mind of Dironna Moore-Clarke, the administrator of the city’s Office of Equitable Transit and Mobility.

“We're really emphasizing on the sidewalk infrastructure,” Moore-Clarke said in an interview with VPM News. “It's mainly in Southside, where it doesn't exist for connectivity. So, that impacts somebody working and living and going to school there if they don't have safe crosswalks.”

Clarke said her office is also coordinating with GRTC's infrastructure plan to make sure sidewalk and road improvements made by the city are in line with the transit authority’s goals of adding bus shelters and benches. And she said the coordination could get projects finished faster.

“We really think that we could escalate that timeframe and do things that they have set for five years, we think we could potentially accomplish all of those things in three years,” Moore-Clarke said.

She said improving infrastructure and public transportation in parts of the city like Southside is important for so many people as they move around the city.

“It's really a lifeline to a good quality of life,” Moore-Clarke said. “You want to be able to get to the places in a timely fashion. We're working steadily with GRTC to increase the frequencies. We hope to have that done and system-wide in Richmond over the next couple of years.”

At the budget work session, Saunders ticked off some of the city’s recently completed capital improvement projects.

“We are proud to tout many of the recently completed capital projects, such as the Nine Mile Road reconstruction [that] provided streetscape and revitalization amenities from I-64 to 25th Street,” Saunders said. “This included the design and phase construction of sidewalk and entrance repairs, curb ramps, crosswalks, marking street trees, pedestrian lighting, and a study for a roundabout at the intersection of Nine Mile Road and 31st Street.”

Capital Improvement Project Highlights

Within the 170-page CIP budget (a part of the city’s 485-page budget) is a breakdown of each potential project, what the cost is and where the funding is coming from.

Some highlights include sidewalk improvements along a small stretch of West Broad Street from North Hamilton Street to Commonwealth Avenue in the city’s West End. Also, along this stretch will be two new curbside bus stations added to the rapid-transit Pulse line, along with sidewalk, ADA accessible ramp and crosswalk improvements.

City Transportation Engineer Mike Sawyer told VPM News via email that the city will also add curb extensions to crosswalks — sometimes called bump-outs — at several intersections along West Main and West Cary streets in the Fan District: from North Belvidere Street to North Arthur Ashe Boulevard. He said both are low-cost projects.

“This project constructs pedestrian safety curb extensions on the upstream side of the cross streets to guarantee a narrower crossing distance for people crossing the street, managed speeds, and permanently preserve sight distance on the cross street,” he said.

Sawyer said West Main Street is “over-represented by pedestrian crashes” and that the Virginia Department of Transportation has identified the corridor in their Safety Action Plan. West Cary Street is also included in that plan.

“The dense, mixed land-use anchored by the Virginia Commonwealth University, the Fan District, and the Museum District makes it an ideal candidate for these curb extensions,” Sawyer said. “The corridor also serves a robust commercial district and Binford Middle School. The proposed improvements plus ancillary items will address long-standing safety concerns expressed by the community.”

Fall Line Construction

Similar to Virginia’s Capital Trial, the Fall Line Trail is a planned 43-mile-long multiuse trail from Ashland to Petersburg, with sections running through Richmond.

The CIP includes funding for trail construction along a half mile stretch of Commerce Road, from the Manchester Bridge to Decatur Street, and the construction of a 10-foot-wide shared-use path to connect Richmond Highway at Walmsley Boulevard to Bellemeade Road at Commerce Road.

There is also a long list of other proposed road and bridge improvements within Richmond’s budget.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for March 27.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News. He also produces and hosts the World Music Show for VPM Music — now in its 16th season. You can often find him riding his bike around Chesterfield County or on Virginia's Capital Trail. Stewart has won multiple Regional Edward R. Murrow and Virginia's AP Broadcasters awards for reporting and sound editing. He graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in journalism and creative writing.