Monday, December 14, 2009

Route 419 revamp being studied

By Montgomery Publishing

Route 419 is getting an upgrade, according to the Roanoke Valley-Allegheny Regional Commission and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The upgrade could take over two decades to complete, however.On December 3, members of the community were invited to the Brambleton Center for a workshop to gather feedback on the plans to improve Route 419.

Everything is still in the planning stages, so the citizens’ feedback was very helpful.

“There’s still time to add things or take things away from the plan,” Senior Planner at the Roanoke Valley-Allegheny Regional Commission (RVARC), Jake Gilmer, said.

That is why RVARC, as well as VDOT, invited the public to attend a meeting to see the plans in detail, as well as to provide comments and recommendations. The approximately 50 citizens who attended the workshop even had the chance to play a game with fake money, or “mobility dollars.” The dollars could be invested into different types of projects in the 419 corridor study, such as adding capacity with more lanes; creating sidewalks; or increasing access to public transportation.

When RVARC and VDOT tabulate the comments and where the most “mobility dollars” was spent, they will know what is most important to the citizens.

Gilmer himself heard a broad range of comments, covering topics as diverse as safety, bicycle and pedestrian issues, and increasing the number of lanes.

“There were so many comments, I don’t want to misrepresent them,” Gilmer said.

In case a citizen was not at the meeting, however, there is still time to add thoughts to the draft.

“We’re still taking public comments,” Gilmer said.

The draft of RVARC’s plans can be found at the website, rvarc.org/419/419plan.htm, and recommendations and commentary can be left there as well.

RVARC’s explanation of why it decided to analyze Route 419 is also available on the website. Route 419 has not been studied for 20 years, a period of time which has seen heavy increases in traffic on the road. Route 419 also has access to important areas such as Tanglewood Mall and Lewis Gale Medical Center which make it significant.

While Route 419 currently only serves automobile travel, RVARC hopes to construct sidewalks in the Salem, Roanoke City, and Roanoke County sections of the road.

RVARC has other goals in mind for 419 as well, including alleviating traffic congestion, reducing accidents, providing safe accommodations for bicyclists, and protecting and enhancing the beauty of the streetscape.

For now, however, RVARC and VDOT’s plans are only in the beginning stages. The money for planning is coming from state funds, such as the Salem area VDOT.

“Local governments are really just contributing time at this point,” Gilmer said.

In winter 2010, RVARC plans to finalize its draft for 419, and present the plans to Roanoke County and Salem’s planning committees.

The proposals are mainly long-term, however, so there is no set point in time at which the construction will begin.

“There is no identified funding for the recommendations at this point in time,” Gilmer said.

Some of the plans could be put into place in the next few years, but other projects will take over 20 years to see completion.

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