SAFE CROSSINGS GOAL OF CITY TRAIL WORK
Work at the Lafayette Boulevard and Blue & Gray Parkway intersection is a sign that the Virginia Central Railway Trail is close to opening.
For months, trail signs around the intersection have been covered with plastic. Fences at the intersection blocked the paved trail and signs warned pedestrians to not cross the highway.
Now, though, crews are installing signals and other equipment designed to help trail users cross the heavily traveled Blue & Gray Parkway, which some consider a safety hazard.
That work should be wrapped up soon, said Doug Fawcett, Fredericksburg’s director of public works.
The official opening of the trail’s first two sections is slated for Saturday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m. A short ceremony will be held at the trail’s head on Cobblestone Boulevard.
The first two sections of the trail stretch from the Cobblestone apartments and roughly parallel Lafayette Boulevard, cross the Blue & Gray Parkway and wind through Alum Spring Park to the U.S. 1 bypass.
A third section is still under construction. That work will include a pedestrian crossing on U.S. 1 and the installation of a new stop signal, just south of the Idlewild entrance.
The plan was to have that section open in November, but Fawcett said that might be delayed until the spring.
Safety concerns with both crossings, primarily with the Blue & Gray and Lafayette intersection, have delayed the opening of the $3.1 million trail.
The Blue & Gray intersection is one of the worst for collisions in the city, according to the Fredericksburg Police Department.
Since 2011, the intersection has ranked second or third for the most crashes in the city.
Changes at the heavily used intersection are being made with the hope that the trail crossing will be safe.
Pedestrian signals are being installed on both sides of the Blue & Gray.
A traffic signal also is being installed for the right turn lane from Lafayette to westbound Blue & Gray. Currently there is a yield sign there.
With the signal, no right turns on red will be allowed. There will be a “No Turn on Red” sign that illuminates during red lights, Fawcett said.
Another signal change at the intersection will involve traffic making left turns on to the Blue & Gray from Lafayette.
The light currently has a green arrow that becomes a green ball, meaning turning traffic must yield to oncoming through traffic.
The new signal will switch from the green arrow to a yellow flashing arrow. It still means turning traffic must yield to oncoming through traffic.
Crews also will move the white stop-bar lines for traffic on the eastbound lanes of the Blue & Gray to align with the crosswalk.
Fawcett has said he thinks the changes will make the crossing safe.
But he also has said the city will monitor the intersection after the crossing opens.
“We won’t know [how well it works] until it’s in operation,” he said.
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
VIRGINIA CENTRAL RAILWAY TRAIL
WHAT: A 2.7-mile trail running from Essex Street downtown near Cobblestone Square off Lafayette Boulevard to Idlewild subdivision west of U.S. 1.
COST: $3.1 million.
OPENING: The trail’s first two sections are scheduled to open Sept. 20.
SECTION 1: From the Cobblestone apartments to the intersection of Lafayette Boulevard and the Blue & Gray Parkway.
SECTION 2: From that intersection, through Alum Spring Park to U.S. 1, where there will be another highway crossing.
SECTION 3: This unfinished section runs from U.S. 1 to the edge of Idlewild; this area of the trail might not open until the spring.
SECTION 4: This section, which has no funding, would run from the edge of Idlewild to Interstate 95.