WINCHESTER — The debate over closing a two-block portion of Boscawen Street at its intersection with the Loudoun Street Mall has quietly come to an end.
An A&M Concrete crew contracted by Winchester started tearing up the uneven brick intersection on Monday morning and will replace it with new asphalt, according to a media release from city Communications Director Amy Simmons.
The roadwork confirms the city's decision to drop consideration of a potential closure of the two-block portion of Boscawen Street where it intersects with the pedestrian mall. No formal vote was ever taken on the issue, but during a public discussion at a City Council work session in late November, the majority of councilors expressed reluctance about shutting down the section. City staff interpreted that as council's official consensus and made no further attempts to have the project approved.
Starting over the summer, the two-block section of Boscawen was closed on weekends to give restaurants an opportunity to provide open-air seating during the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a temporary measure to help bolster business at the restaurants and was not related to previous discussions regarding the street's permanent closure.
The suggestion to seal off the two-block portion of Boscawen to improve pedestrian safety was introduced in 2017 by Winchester Public Services Director Perry Eisenach. Through a series of public information sessions and an online survey conducted last October, officials sought citizens' input on three potential scenarios:
- Option 1 — Close Boscawen Street between Indian Alley and Cameron Street, and incorporate it into the pedestrian mall. Estimated cost: $2.5 million.
- Option 2 — Close Boscawen between Indian Alley and the parking lot behind Rouss City Hall, and incorporate it into the pedestrian mall. Estimated cost: $2.35 million.
- Option 3 — Allow Boscawen to remain open to traffic but install retractable safety barriers at its intersections with Indian Alley and Cameron Street, and remove the decorative brick columns that obstruct drivers’ view of oncoming pedestrians at the Boscawen/Loudoun intersection. Estimated cost: $1.15 million.
When the majority of council expressed reluctance last year to close Boscawen, Eisenach said he would flesh out Option 3 and return with more information on installing safety barriers and removing the decorative brick columns.
Simmons said on Monday that officials are still looking at the possibility of installing barriers and removing columns, but neither of those things can happen without funding.
"We have applied for VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportatin] Transportation Alternative and Revenue Sharing funding for safety improvements to Boscawen Street, but have not heard back from them yet," Simmons wrote in an email to The Star. "A final plan on specific measures to be implemented has yet to be determined, and there is no timeline established for creating that plan. If awarded, the VDOT funding we applied for will require a match from the city, which will have to go through the formal budget process."
For now, the only work being performed at the Loudoun/Boscawen intersection involves tearing up the old, uneven brick pavers and replacing them with a smooth asphalt surface. The intersection will remain closed, and delivery vehicles will be prohibited on the pedestrian mall, until that work is finished.
Next week, Simmons wrote, "The asphalt will be decorated with stamped thermoplastic in a red brick color. This material was selected because it will hold up much better and last longer than the bricks and pavers did."
The thermoplastic, which is pliable when heated but solid and durable after being cooled, will be installed during evening hours. The Loudoun/Boscawen intersection will remain closed to vehicular traffic during this process, but deliveries to the mall will not be impacted.
For more information on the Boscawen Street road improvements, visit the city of Winchester's website at winchesterva.gov.