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COLUMN: Crossing busy roads is safety concern with new city trail

The biking and walking trails that have been added around the Fredericksburg area in recent years are really nice. Especially this time of year.

The city’s new addition, the Virginia Central Railway Trail, will be another fine attraction.

But there’s a catch with that trail, two of them actually, that officials readily acknowledge.

The issues are two road crossings—one across U.S. 1 and the other at the intersection of Blue & Gray Parkway and Lafayette Boulevard.

It sounds like folks understand there are issues, primarily with safety, but also potential traffic conundrums at the Blue & Gray intersection.

While officialdom considered alternatives at that intersection, it appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach to what happens after the trail opens.

That might be asking for trouble.

Who among you wants to cross the Blue & Gray Parkway intersection in anything other than a car (or tank) at any time? How about during rush hour or on the weekend?

Will you take your kids across that intersection?

Plans call for a pedestrian signal, which is supposed to stop traffic at the intersection.

But people run red lights around here all the time, and traffic doesn’t putt through that intersection.

The crossing at U.S. 1 doesn’t appear to be as big an issue, but is there any spot on that highway good for foot or bicycle traffic to cross?

The University of Mary Washington found a way to deal with the highway by building the foot bridge to cut back on the number of students crossing at the College Avenue intersection.

City officials have said they considered a pedestrian bridge at the Blue & Gray, but say there are too many issues with that, including cost.

There’s another spot that for years had issues with pedestrians crossing a heavily traveled road: Fall Hill Avenue at the Rappahannock Canal Bridge.

It took a long time, but the city found a solution for that spot—replace the bridge and build the path under it.

Is there time to reconsider the railway trail’s road crossings?

What can be done, realistically?

If there is time, maybe there’s an alternative for the Blue & Gray, at least.

Would the city reconsider the planned roundabout on Lafayette Boulevard, at Lee Drive just up the hill from the Blue & Gray? Officials have admitted the flaws in that plan.

Would it be crazy to scrap that plan and shift the focus to rebuilding the Blue & Gray intersection to accommodate the developers of the planned Telegraph Hill, while also creating a better solution for the trail crossing (i.e., a foot bridge)?

Maybe the developers would like to help in some way? That trail might very well entice people to buy a home or shop at the planned mixed-use development.

Maybe it’s too late to change things, and this is nothing more than a bad case of armchair quarterbacking.

If you’d like to play this game, too, feel free to send in suggestions you think could help solve the trail crossing conundrum.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436