The city is moving forward with the third phase of the South River Greenway, looking to construct the extension along 14th Street to connect Loth Springs to Ridgeview Park.
The route, though, likely won’t make everyone happy, acknowledged Waynesboro Deputy City Manager Jim Shaw. No matter the choice, he said, someone will have a legitimate objection.
“If we wait for a route that everyone likes, I’m afraid we’re stymied,” Shaw told City Council during Monday night’s meeting.
In January 2018, Waynesboro entered into a grant agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation to pursue the project but little progress has been made since because of public disagreement over the route. VDOT is funding the entire project’s estimated cost of about $1.1 million. Any additional costs beyond that amount would be borne by the city.
The less-than-a-mile-long extension will incorporate features for pedestrians and bicyclists, which could include separated mixed-use trails. Previously, Parks and Recreation Director Dwayne Jones said this phase will add a combination of paved asphalt paths and traditional city sidewalks of between 5 and 10 feet wide depending on location.
Details of what amenities will be included in the greenway, however, won’t be known until more extensive planning is completed and largely will be dictated by national safety guidelines and protocols, according to Shaw.
Shaw presented the results of a public survey in which 112 residents responded, ranking their preferences of among five identified routes from first to fifth. While many preferred a route following the South River, the one that garnered the most positive responses is a generally linear path following 14th Street. The extension would travel 14th from South Magnolia Avenue to the west, crossing Wayne Avenue and ending at the site of the planned Loth Springs Park at the South River to the east.
Three other routes — all along streets within the interior of the Tree Streets neighborhood — engendered the most negative responses. About half those responding, 54, identified themselves as living in the Tree Streets while 58 said they did not.
The Tree Streets are “a really beautiful neighborhood in the city,” Shaw said, but “we find there are strong objections from residents who live in that part of the neighborhood.”
The South River route, Shaw said, appears to be too costly because of the topography. He said building the greenway extension there likely would need extensive work on the steep riverbanks and also might require the installation of retaining walls and elevated walkways.
In addition, he said, the route would be intrusive, requiring the city to obtain a number of rights of way agreements from private property owners.
“It’s questionable if it’s feasible given those constraints,” Shaw said.
The 14th Street route offers space to work with, he said, given it’s a 15-foot roadway; the street only must be 11 feet wide.
But, Shaw acknowledged, the route isn’t without its constraints — the greenway would mean the loss of some existing on-street parking, and there are several cross streets that could be challenging for planners to overcome, although not impossible.
One resident in attendance Monday said the greenway extension would be a hardship for many homeowners on 14th Street. Katie Harris, who lives at 14th and Cherry, said at least 10 private driveways would lose access to on-street parking.
“Tonight alone, I counted 34 cars parked” on 14th Street, she told council.
Councilman Sam Hostetter, following Shaw’s presentation, thanked members of the Waynesboro Parks and Recreation Commission for their efforts during the process, noting that commission members “walked and drove many of the routes.“ The commission, however, could not come to a unanimous decision, he said.
“We are balancing appropriateness, feasibility, safety and affordability,” said Hostetter, who added that he also preferred the 14th Street route.
Mayor Terry Short, a Tree Streets resident, agreed with Hostetter.
“I also understand the perfect route is along the river, that’s where I would like it,” Short said, but added the city must achieve a connection between its parks in an affordable way.
Shaw, speaking Tuesday, said staff was preparing to move forward with 14th Street as the preferred route given council did not voice any objections to the choice Monday. He said if the engineering and design phase of the project finds there are significant problems with the route, staff will return to council for guidance.
Detailed engineering work on Phase III of the greenway should be completed in time for the city to go out for bid on the extension next year, Shaw said.
The South River Greenway had its genesis in the 1990s, with the first phase of 0.88 miles along the South River from the Loth Springs Parking area on Arch Avenue, behind the YMCA, to the Dominion Shelter in Constitution Park completed in 2011.
The second phase called for adding a series of sidewalks and bike sharrows through the Tree Streets terminating near Oak Avenue. This phase itself was divided into two parts, with right of way acquisition underway on the remaining section connecting Constitution Park to North Park.
Once Phase II and Phase III are finished, that will add 2 miles to the greenway’s existing 1.2 miles.
On Monday night, council agreed to support a VDOT grant application for Phase IV, which will connect North Park to Basic Park. The 0.7-mile trail is expected to cost $813,000, of which Waynesboro is to pay $162,700 and VDOT the rest.
If the grant is awarded, preliminary engineering could start in the 2021 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2020, with construction to begin the following fiscal year.