City Seeks Federal Money to Kick-Start Monticello Multiuse Trail

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City Council and staff believe the stretch of Monticello Avenue between Treyburn Drive and Ironbound Road is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists. (Courtesy of City of Williamsburg)
City Council and staff believe the stretch of Monticello Avenue between Treyburn Drive and Ironbound Road is unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists. (Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)

The City of Williamsburg is again asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to offer funding help for a multiuse trail on Monticello Avenue to better connect with the College of William & Mary and James City County.

City Council voted unanimously Oct. 8 to apply for the Transportation Alternatives Program, a Federal Highway Administration fund that allocates money to the Virginia Department of Transportation to be distributed to localities for community-based projects that expand travel options.

The city would use the money to construct a multiuse trail along Monticello Avenue, from Treyburn Drive to Ironbound Road, to connect three major economic areas: the college, New Town in James City County, and the High Street and Midtown area of the city.

The city applied for TAP last year for the Monticello Avenue multiuse trail, which was the highest ranked project in Hampton Roads not selected for funding. The Commonwealth Transportation Board, which is in charge of selecting localities for TAP, focused on closing out incomplete projects in fiscal 2016, City Engineer Aaron Small said.

“Now that we’re reapplying, we’ll get a previous project designation,” Small said at the council meeting. “That’ll actually help our chances.”

Though engineering for the project has not been completed, the city’s idea is to build a 10-foot wide lighted multiuse asphalt trail separate from the road to offer a safer route along that roadway for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“It’s a road that’s in desperate need of attention, and this will make it happen if we get approved,” Councilman Doug Pons said.

If chosen, the project would have 80 percent of its cost covered by the TAP funds. The college, which owns the surrounding College Woods land, has verbally agreed to split the required 20 percent local match with the city. A written agreement with the college is being drafted.

With the total cost of the project estimated at $1.25 million, the city’s contribution would stand at $125,000.

The project is included in the city’s Goals, Initiatives and Outcomes, which currently spans fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The GIOs are adopted biennially with revisions made at the halfway point of each cycle.

The city seeks a grant to construct a trail separate from the roadway in the College Woods area of Monticello Avenue. (Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)
The city seeks a grant to construct a trail separate from the roadway in the College Woods area of Monticello Avenue. (Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)

Though revisions are in the works for the current cycle, City Council members identified the project as a priority at its August retreat.

During the discussion last week, Small and council members were critical of the current state of Monticello Avenue, which is under VDOT’s purview, as unsafe for not only the pedestrians and bicyclists but also for the drivers attempting to navigate around them.

The two-lane road, which is not lighted, has 3-foot wide paved bike lanes along the shoulder. The speed limit for the majority of the road is set at 45 mph.

Vice Mayor Paul Freiling said he found it particularly difficult to safely drive around pedestrians and bicyclists during the twilight hours.

“It’s very difficult to see people walking or cycling in that bike lane. It’s a 45 mile an hour speed limit, which makes it that much more treacherous. … Anything we can do to help move this project forward, I think, is worthwhile,” Freiling said.

The TAP application is due Nov. 2, with the announcement of the selected projects in June 2016. Funds would be awarded in July 2016, and construction could begin in 2017.

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