Looking to enhance safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, Henrico County officials are transitioning a stretch of Church Road from four lanes to two, equipped with a center turning lane, crosswalk and bike lanes.
Construction on the 1.8-mile stretch near John Rolfe Parkway between Wilde Lake Drive, near Lauderdale Drive and Chapelwood Lane, is slated to begin next month. County officials expect the project to wrap up within 45 days.
The $1.2 million Church Road Safety Project, recently approved by the Board of Supervisors, will be completed by Finley Asphalt & Sealing. Scheduled repaving accounts for about 75% of the project’s cost.
Plans to reconfigure the road come two years after the speed limit was reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph along the 3-mile stretch between Three Chopt Road and Lauderdale Drive.
The reduced speed limit was in response to safety concerns along the curvy road. There were 14 accidents in 2018, before the speed limit change; five in 2019; and none in 2020. Six occurred in the first half of 2021.
“Church Road has been a speeding issue of concern for residents for quite a while,” said Steve Yob, deputy county manager for community operations.
A group of residents representing nine subdivisions in the Church Road area began asking for pedestrian and bicycle improvements in 2019, Yob said.
A few years ago, residents living along Park Terrace Drive not far from Church Road requested bike lanes so they could safely travel to Wellesley Lake, he said.
For Church Road, Yob said he enjoyed the resident participation as “they are our eyes and ears.”
As the county moves forward with projects, there will be a push for resident feedback in the same way as Church Road, said Ben Sheppard, a county spokesman.
“The project was a win-win, [Church Road will become] a safer road and there will be bike lanes,” Sheppard said.
A series of projects are underway in the county, including adding sidewalks along Audubon Drive in Varina; installing sidewalks and crosswalks to increase pedestrian access on Azalea Road in Fairfield; and improvements to Bethlehem Road in Brookland.
According to a county news release, the Federal Highway Administration said a road redesign like Church Road can bring between 19% and 47% reduction in crashes, improved mobility for all those using the road, and lower driving speeds. In the first year of the lowered speed limit, the average speed lowered from 49.8 mph to 44 mph, the release states.
When it comes to speeding, the county is very aware of resident concerns, Yob said. Once concerns come in, the county’s traffic engineers head out and conduct a study of how fast drivers are going.
Church Road became a “strong candidate” to undergo a reconfiguration not only because of public input but also because it was due for road resurfacing, said Terrell Hughes, director of Henrico’s Public Works Department, in a county news release.
Pushing through the hurdle of the coronavirus pandemic, the county managed to host a virtual meeting and host an online survey about the project last November. The survey received 426 responses, including several emails.
Of the three options presented, each offering bike lanes in slightly differing ways, 71% of respondents overwhelmingly favored the final option of having sidewalks, buffered bike lanes on each side of traffic, a crosswalk, two driving lanes and a center turn lane, according to the public feedback summary.
Respondents preferred the bike lanes to be on either side of the driving lanes, in the same direction of traffic, instead of side by side as shown in a different option.
Overall, crosswalks were desired by 71% of respondents, with 58% wanting bike lanes.
Hughes credits residents and homeowners’ associations along the road corridor in helping to frame the project.
“We hear the residents of the county, and we’re actively working countywide on improvements that can be made,” he said.
Similar road plans are slated for Dumbarton and Dickens roads in the county. Henrico’s Public Works Department is slated to present proposals to the community either in late 2021 or early next year.
This article has been updated to correct Yob's title.