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One of the City of Williamsburg’s entrance corridors is about to get a new look.
The Williamsburg City Council voted to move forward with a proposal to repair and improve the streetscape along the York Street corridor from the three-way intersection of Lafayette, Page and York streets through a portion of Quarterpath Road.
Council members voted 4-0, with Councilman Doug Pons abstaining, to execute a $757,589 contract with Messer Contracting to construct a variety of improvements to the street’s sidewalks, light fixtures and landscaping.
The proposed improvements cover four main areas:
- Installing a 5-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of York Street from the three-way intersection to the eastern entrance of the Clarion Hotel.
- Installing a seven-foot wide sidewalk along the Colonial Williamsburg pasture from the Bassett Hall entrance to Quarterpath Road.
- Replacing street lighting to move poles away from the sidewalk.
- Landscaping improvements along the road, including planting additional trees.
City Engineer Aaron Small said the project emerged from an earlier joint plan between the city and James City County to transform the Route 60 East corridor from the three-way intersection as far as Busch Gardens to provide visitors and motorists with a more aesthetically pleasing and safe route.
The two localities applied for a federal grant to fund the project, but it was denied. Small said the city decided to move forward with its portion of the project, applying for revenue-sharing dollars from the Virginia Department of Transportation to fund the reduced proposal.
VDOT accepted the city’s request, and state dollars will cover half of the cost of construction.
While the project will improve the visual appearance of the street, Small said the changes had the practical benefit of making the area more friendly to pedestrians. Wider sidewalks will facilitate pedestrian access, while the addition of a path by the Colonial Williamsburg pasture will improve pedestrian safety.
Small said construction was slated to begin in May and continue for nine months. The timeline for streetlight installation is uncertain, as it is separate from the contract, and subject to Dominion Virginia Power’s schedule.
Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said he was concerned the proposed sidewalk construction material — exposed aggregate concrete, a kind of cement with a coarse top layer — would be hard on pedestrians.
“Exposed aggregate is an attractive surface and it’s fine in a car, it’s really tough if you’re pushing a stroller,” he said. “It creates constant vibrations on the wheels — and the occupants of the stroller.”
City Manager Jack Tuttle said the exposed aggregate selected for this project was smoother than other kinds found in the area, like the Colonial Parkway, and city staff determined it was the best option.
Street lights along York Street will also be replaced as part of the project. Small said some lights in adjacent hotel parking lots were being removed as part of the project and replaced by uniform lights along the street that would illuminate both.
“We’re going to have a uniform, cleaner look,” Tuttle said.
York Street is the latest city thoroughfare to receive significant improvements. Over the past seven years, the city has spent more than $5.5 million to bury power and telecommunications lines underground as part of its beautification plan.
The Williamsburg Planning Commission supported further underground wiring projects for the proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, which begins July 1.
Update 4/13/2015: This story has been updated to an include a timeline for construction.