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Safety issues delaying Fredericksburg trail

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The new Virginia Central Railway Trail won’t be ready this summer.

Walkers, runners and bike riders will have to wait until Labor Day before they can enjoy the $3.1 million trail.

Safety issues at highway crossings have caused the delay. Those concerns prompted Fredericksburg officials to modify the plan for the crossing at the Blue & Gray Parkway, an intersection that is one of the worst for crashes in Fredericksburg.

Overall, the 2.7-mile trail will run from Essex Street downtown near the Apartments at Cobblestone Square off Lafayette Boulevard to the edge of the Idlewild subdivision west of U.S. 1.

The trail’s first section runs from downtown to the intersection of Lafayette Boulevard and the Blue & Gray Parkway.

The second phase winds from there, through Alum Spring Park to U.S. 1, where there will be another highway crossing.

The third section runs from U.S. 1 to the edge of Idlewild.

A fourth section would run from there to Interstate 95, but there is no money for that section.

The first two sections were originally scheduled to open last December.

The new projected opening date is early September, Fawcett said. The third section should open in November.

Fawcett said crews still have to make changes at the intersection of Lafayette Boulevard and the Blue & Gray Parkway, which includes installing a crosswalk along with pedestrian and traffic signals.

That intersection has some officials worried about safety and traffic impacts.

“I know there’s a lot of concern,” Fawcett said.

He said city officials have been working on ways to make the crossing safe and efficient.

The city, Fawcett said, has included the Fredericksburg Police Department, Virginia Department of Transportation and a private consultant in the design process.

“I think we have an answer that’s going to satisfy people,” Fawcett said.

He added that once the trail opens they will watch the intersection crossing.

“We won’t know [how well it works] until it’s in operation,” he said.

Two of the police department’s former traffic specialists have said they raised issues about safety at the intersection crossing.

Lt. Eddie Delano and Officer Jamie Walker “attended two earlier meetings involving the plans for the trail and expressed general concern about the crossing due to the high volume of traffic through the intersection and the fact that the intersection is a top location for motor vehicle accidents,” said Natatia Bledsoe, police department spokeswoman.

The Lafayette and Blue & Gray intersection has one of the highest crash rates in the city.

Since 2011, the intersection has ranked second or third for the most crashes in the city, according to police department statistics.

The State Route 3 and the Carl D. Silver Parkway intersection area has been the worst spot for crashes each of those years.

With the VCR Trail, Bledsoe said the officers were particularly concerned about the right turn from southbound Lafayette onto the parkway’s westbound lanes.

That turn currently has a yield sign, but the city will install a stop light there and will not allow right turns on red.

City officials considered building a pedestrian bridge at the intersection, but that option eventually was deemed too complicated and expensive.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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