WINCHESTER — City Council plans to apply for up to $12 million in project funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), with $1.625 million proposed for the possible closure of a portion of Boscawen Street downtown.

Problem is, the Boscawen Street project has only been discussed, not approved, and a planned public information session on the project won't be held until after the Oct. 1 application deadline. That means the city could be asking VDOT to award funding for a project that may never materialize.

"It's a slippery slope to [financially] prioritize a project that hasn't been approved," Councilor Corey Sullivan said.

For two years, Winchester officials have been discussing safety improvements for a two-block section of Boscawen Street where it intersects with the Loudoun Street pedestrian mall. Proposals on the table include closing that portion of Boscawen and integrating it into the mall, installing retractable traffic barriers at both ends of the two-block portion, removing the brick columns on the Loudoun Street Mall that make it difficult for vehicles on Boscawen to see people crossing the intersection, or doing nothing at all.

Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach has said pedestrian safety is the main impetus behind the proposed changes. Other reasons include the high number of vehicles that turn the wrong way from Cameron Street onto the one-way portion of Boscawen Street, and a desire from restaurants on the two-block stretch of Boscawen to offer outdoor seating.

Eisenach said at council's work session on Tuesday night that the city won't be able to apply for VDOT funding for another two years, so if City Council doesn't obtain money now but decides in the next few months to proceed with changes to Boscawen Street, construction may have to wait until the next round of state applications are submitted in late 2021.

"I want to make sure we're not losing an opportunity for revenues," Councilor Kim Herbstritt said.

Winchester is seeking the $12 million in VDOT funds from two sources — $10 million in Revenue Sharing funds and $2 million in Transportation Alternative funds. The Revenue Sharing funds would require a dollar-for-dollar match from the city, while the Transportation Alternative funds would cover up to 80% of project costs. That means Winchester would have to spend $10 million of its own money for the Revenue Sharing projects, plus $500,000 for the Transportation Alternative projects.

As proposed, the Revenue Sharing projects, which total $20 million and would be undertaken in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, include:

  • $1.25 million for Boscawen Street safety improvements between Indian Alley and Cameron Street.
  • $4.3 million for Phase II of the North Cameron Street drainage improvements.
  • $5 million for traffic improvements on Millwood Avenue.
  • $2.5 million for traffic improvements at the intersection of Jubal Early Drive and South Pleasant Valley Road.
  • $1 million to construct an eastbound turn lane on South Pleasant Valley Road at its intersection with East Cork Street.
  • $3.375 million for constructing sidewalks and bicycle lanes along Middle Road.
  • $575,000 for widening the Green Circle Trail along West Jubal Early Drive.
  • $2 million for street paving throughout the city.

The $2.5 million in Transportation Alternative funding would be applied to the following Revenue Sharing projects in fiscal years 2021 and 2022:

  • $1.25 million for Boscawen Street safety improvements between Indian Alley and Cameron Street.
  • $625,000 for constructing sidewalks and bicycle lanes along Middle Road.
  • $625,000 for widening the Green Circle Trail along West Jubal Early Drive.

Council voted 8-1 to forward the proposed Revenue Sharing application to its next business meeting on Sept. 24. Councilor Les Veach opposed the measure because it includes a funding request for the Boscawen Street project.

"I think it's putting the cart before the horse," Veach said.

Councilor John Willingham suggested modifying the Transportation Alternative application to ask VDOT for $250,000 for Boscawen Street, $1 million for Middle Road and $750,000 for the Green Circle Trail.

Willingham's motion was approved 7-2, with Mayor David Smith and council Vice President Evan Clark opposing the allocation changes.

"I would like to keep it as is and still get the [public] input [on the Boscawen Street proposals]," Smith said.

The first batch of input could come on Oct. 2, when officials plan to hold an information session at Rouss City Hall on the potential future of the two-block portion of Boscawen Street.

Attending Tuesday night’s City Council work session in Rouss City Hall were Mayor and council President David Smith, Vice Mayor John Hill, Vice President Evan Clark and councilors Kim Herbstritt, John Willingham, Les Veach, Corey Sullivan, Bill Wiley and Judy McKiernan.

— Contact Brian Brehm at bbrehm@winchesterstar.com

(2) comments

srjjj

Sure smells like a done deal. Seems to me that the "fair" thing to do would be to temporarily close this section of road for some period of time, and then poll area residents as to their feelings. But then, that is not Council's tradition.

Marilynn Boyd

If Boscawen Street is not closed off at Braddock Street, then all traffic coming from Braddock Street will be diverted down Indian Alley. I do not think that is a good idea.

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