Officials tout East End street project at Fulton Hill meeting

The proposed design of a nearly $8 million street project that officials say will improve the East End of Richmond’s transportation network and parking while providing better access to the riverfront went before the public at a meeting Wednesday night in Fulton Hill.

The project includes widening East Main Street and potentially adding a roundabout at its intersection with a relocated Dock Street. Dock, currently alongside the James River, would be moved north, potentially opening the doors to more development and public access near the river.

East Main would be widened to include parking, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping, and to accommodate bus rapid transit pullouts.

“That area of the city is growing. There’s a lot going on over there, and we want to make sure that it’s able to accommodate the volume of traffic as it continues to increase,” said Sharon North, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Public Works. “We also want to make it an area that people go to, that they have access to the riverfront and businesses.”

City engineer M. Khara said a new Dock Street would run north of its current footprint and connect with East Main at Ash Street, where a roundabout is proposed. The shift is needed because of the closure of Water Street between Nicholson and Ash as part of the Stone Brewery Development.

The relocated Dock Street would have bike lanes, sidewalks and two vehicle travel lanes, officials said.

During the public meeting, illustrations of the proposed plan were on display and experts were on hand to answer questions from the few dozen residents who attended.

The project is designed in part to better connect downtown with east Richmond as far as Rocketts Landing, creating links by vehicles, mass transit and bicycles, while also recognizing the river as a major attraction.

Kimberly Winn, who lives on Dock Street, said that the project will have a major impact on the city and that she would like for the community to be more involved in the process.

Stewart Schwartz, a board member of Partnership for Smarter Growth and the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said a big concern is that city has been asking the public to look at bits and pieces of the riverfront plans separately. He suggests the city do a better job of explaining all of the pieces of the various proposals along the riverfront and how they tie together.

“Why isn’t the public being shown the big picture of what is being considered?” Schwartz asked.

Elsewhere in the plans, the widened portion of East Main, which would run from its intersection with the new Dock Street to Gillies Creek, would sport parking spaces on each side, bike lanes, a 6-foot median and sidewalks.

Also included: sidewalks and landscaping along Nicholson Street to the railroad bridge and bus rapid transit pullouts on Main Street between Gillies Creek and Nicholson Street.

The project is expected to go before the city’s Urban Design Committee and Planning Commission for a preliminary meeting in May, with final approval possible in July.

Construction is expected to start in February or March of next year, with completion tentatively scheduled for December 2017.

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