Jul. 25, 2014

New Town route project falls out of the fast lane

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October 25, 2012

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A combination of red tape and insufficient funds has halted a proposed project that would provide students at the College of William and Mary a safer and more efficient access to the New Town Shopping Center on Monticello Avenue.

The city’s Comprehensive Plan recommends a multi-use trail along Monticello Avenue from Treyburn Drive to Ironbound Rd. that would allow for a safe walking route to New Town. The current configuration forces students to make the trek in the bike lane along Monticello Avenue, a road with a speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

Under normal circumstances, the city would have the green light to proceed on the project, which is estimated to cost $2 million. However, Monticello Avenue is owned by the state and the surrounding property is owned by the College. This means that the land sited in the city’s Comprehensive Plan is not under the city’s jurisdiction.

“In normal circumstances, like if this were on city property, we would make a recommendation and then the city would follow through,” Planning Commission member Chris Connolly ’15 said. “In this case, it is kind of a weird situation because you’ve got so many different actors.”

Since the city’s efforts are stalled, either the College or the Virginia Department of Transportation could undertake the construction, but neither wants to pick up the tab.

The College’s six-year capital project plan originally included the project, but it has since been removed due to budgetary restraints.

“[The project] is going to get a lower priority for funds,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said.

The state also chose to not take on the project.  In certain situations where the road is unsafe for walking, VDOT could take the land from the College, invoking Virginia’s right-of-way policy, and construct the path. The state did not request easement of the land for the project.

The city, however, expressed concerns that the path envisioned in the Comprehensive plan might not be safe.

“I see lots of people just walking along the side, plus, at night, there are no street lights,” Connolly said.

The city will hold a public hearing Nov. 7 at which students and other interested parties will be able to voice their opinions about the project and other city issues. The Comprehensive Plan will be voted on Dec. 19.

“It is a complicated situation in that there are some many different actors, but it would definitely be a valuable project and something that the college or the state should follow up with. I think [not only] students would utilize it, but residents as well,” Connolly said.

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