The Town of Vinton will host a community meeting at the Vinton War Memorial at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, to gain citizen input on the Town of Vinton Route 24 Bike/Pedestrian Plan.
According to Vinton Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Nathan McClung, the meeting will cover recommended improvements to enhance biking and pedestrian accommodations along the “loop” of Washington Avenue, Bypass Road, Hardy Road, East Virginia Avenue, South Pollard Street, and the neighborhood streets within that area.
The community meeting will also address future greenway connections through the historic Jefferson Park neighborhood and will include a creative toolkit of improvements to utilize on specifically identified streets, areas, and important pedestrian/bicycle travel areas.
One such improvement likely to draw public comment at the planning meeting includes the potential for reconfiguring Washington Avenue.
“The proposed improvements would include two 11-foot travel lanes, a 10-foot, two-way left turn lane, and 5-foot bike lanes on each side,” McClung said. “These bike lanes are protected by the travel lanes by a 4-foot buffer space. This all adds up to 50 feet of pavement space that currently makes up Washington Avenue. We could do these improvements entirely through the use of pavement markings (e.g. paint, etc.) and they could take place within the existing right of way. We would not have to narrow or eliminate sidewalks.
“Just like on Brandon Avenue in the City of Roanoke, we do not believe this would cause back-ups, but would rather be a traffic calming measure that will accommodate more road users and assist drivers who are attempting to make left-turns across the existing roadway to entrances on the opposite side,” McClung added.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recommends this type of “road diet” involving narrowing travel lanes or eliminating some of them to provide more space for pedestrians and bicyclists.
“A typical road diet consists of converting a four-lane roadway (two in each direction) to a three-lane (one in each direction plus a center turn lane) and adding sidewalks and/or bicycle lanes,” the FHWA says.
The PowerPoint presentation on the Bike/Pedestrian Plan includes some research on “road diets” such as the Washington Avenue proposal. Studies have shown a reduction in crashes of between 19 and 47% when a “road diet” in installed on a previously four-lane road.
Other proposals in the project currently include adding sidewalks, high visibility crosswalks, traffic calming measures, wayfinding, large in-street stencils, signalized intersection enhancements, and crosswalk enhancements.
The Town of Vinton received grant funding from the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment’s (OIPI) Growth & Accessibility Planning Technical Assistance Program for consultant assistance to create this Multimodal Access and Improvement Study for the heart of Vinton– the area between Route 24, East Washington Avenue, and South Pollard Street.
In October 2021, the Planning and Zoning Department asked for citizen input on the project through an online survey to make sure they were focusing on the areas of most interest to the public. The survey was quite unique in that it allowed individuals to use an interactive map to place points within the town to identify several factors:
- Desired bike/walk destinations where citizens would like to walk or bike more safely and comfortably
- Desired bike improvements for bicycling in the future
- Desired walk improvements for future walkways
- Current safety concerns that need to be addressed for biking or walking
The plan builds on the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission’s (RVARC) “Major Corridors–Bicycle & Pedestrian Accommodations” Study and will create a list of very specific improvements to help make biking and walking in this area safer and more comfortable.
The studies conducted under the grant and the public meetings will culminate into a final Route 24 Bike/Pedestrian Plan. The next official public meeting will be at Town Council where the final plan will be presented.
The current grant funds the development of a full Plan that will be used in the future to apply for additional grant funding to finance the improvements. It does not include funding for the actual improvements.
To learn more about the successful Brandon Avenue project in the City of Roanoke, visit https://planroanoke.org/brandonpaving/.