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The City of Williamsburg hopes to make the walk from downtown to New Town easier — and safer.
Pending a vote from City Council, Williamsburg will award a bid to civil engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. for the design of a 3/4-mile walking and biking trail along Monticello, according to a city memo.
The proposed trail will run from Ironbound Road to the William and Mary School of Education. In effect, the trail will connect James City County’s New Town to the intersection of Richmond Road and Monticello Avenue — making a new pedestrian artery through Williamsburg.
Currently, pedestrians are relegated to walking along the shoulder or grass alongside the two-lane road, which is not lighted.
“It’s dark and it’s hard to see them sometimes — and it’s a 45 mph road,” Aaron Small, the city’s engineer, said of those who walk along the thoroughfare. “There’s a lot of safety benefits seen by putting in this multi-use trail…I drive it every day and it’s precarious.”
In addition to safety benefits, Economic Director Michele DeWitt said she believes the trail will help businesses along the corridor.
“We think multi-use trails are good things for localities and enhance the area from a vibrancy standpoint,” DeWitt said. “From an economic development perspective we definitely think it’s a good thing.”
The Council will vote April 17 at their monthly meeting. The meeting memo indicates the city will pay the design firm a fee of $198,953 for the planning of the trail. City staff reviewed twelve responses to a request for design services for the project.
“Our selection committee reviews all the proposals, and we rank them accordingly,” said Small. “The top three firms are invited back to do a presentation and they are further ranked. We chose the one we think is best qualified.”
The firm has provided services on similar projects including the Virginia Capital Trail and the Mariner’s Museum Trail, according to the memo, and their project manager worked on the York Street improvement project.
Williamsburg was awarded a $1 million grant for the trail’s construction in the summer of 2016. The grant was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board as part of the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), a Federal Highway Administration fund geared toward improving pedestrian and bicycle facilities.
According to a press release, the grant will fund 80 percent of the project, while city funds will cover the remaining 20 percent.
Small said he anticipates construction will not begin for another year or more.
“I hope people understand it takes longer because of this federal process,” Small said. “That’s the benefit of them paying 80 percent. You just have to accept it’s going to take longer.”