Connect Our Schools Update

From the Daily News Record on January 25, 2018

“Council OKs Shared-Use Path In City” Click to read the article on the DNR webstie

ELLIE POTTER Daily News-Record   

HARRISONBURG — City staff got the go-ahead Tuesday to begin negotiating with property owners along the proposed Garbers Church Road shared-use path.
City Council voted unanimously to allow staff to begin meeting with the 30 property owners and discussing easements to make way for the path, a process that will take about a year to complete.Mayor Deanna Reed and Councilmen Richard Baugh, Ted Byrd, George Hirschmann and Chris Jones voted to authorize talks on the right of way, but did not approve the shared-use path.
The city has $3 million for the project so far and is awaiting a decision on another $1.2 million, said Tom Hartman, Harrisonburg assistant director of public works.In 2016, the Virginia Department of Transportation approved a $3 million revenue sharing grant, so VDOT pitched in $1.5 million, and the city provided the match.
Later this spring, Hartman said, VDOT will decide whether to fund another $600,000 through a $1.2 million revenue sharing grant with the city.Staff could adjust the path if property owners refuse to let it cross their land.As proposed, the 3-mile path would begin along Garbers Church Road across from Harrisonburg High School, then head east, looping down and around Heritage Oaks Golf Course, and intersect with Hillandale Avenue.
Pedestrians and bicyclists would head north on Hillandale and pick up the path again just before the loop at the end of Hillandale.The path continues northeast to the Wyndham Woods neighborhood, crossing over Wyndham Woods Circle and running behind the homes on the south side of Wyndham Drive.From there, staff have tentative plans to extend separate paths to Thomas Harrison Middle School, West Market Street and Westover Park.Hartman told council he had heard some suggestions to have the path empty onto Wyndham Drive, rather than building the path behind homes on that road.
Doing so may require staff to eliminate some parking on that street to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to pass through, he said.Byrd asked that staff look into designing the path as proposed but also to consider having pedestrians walk along Wyndham Drive instead.”We need to move forward,” he said. “I just would like to see both options be taken.”Jones, who lives in the neighborhood near the proposed path, said he supported the project as well.
Council’s vote was necessary so staff could determine the feasibility and cost of the project, he said.City staff believe the road will help kids walk and bike to school more easily, Hartman said, and provide two more connections to Hillandale Park for community members.”I think these are safe amenities, and I think they are transportation networks,” he said, “same as the roadways and sidewalks in front of your house. I think they are very similar in nature.”Eight people spoke during a public hearing on the path Tuesday, mostly in support of it.
Matt Hassman, coordinator of the Safe Routes to School program for Harrisonburg City Public Schools, said connectivity is a hurdle for getting children safely to and from school. The path’s eventual connection to Market Street would allow students north of there to also access the trail.Julie Thurnau, who lives on Maryland Avenue, said her children ride their bikes to and from Thomas Harrison Middle School.”The era is a lot of computer time, and they’re very sedentary,” Thurnau said. “
The only time they really like to exercise without me making them exercise is to and from school because it’s social, they get a let-down time, they blow off some steam and it’s a safe environment.”Kelly Ganoe, who lives on Wyndham Drive, spoke against the project.Ganoe bought her property because it’s quiet and private, she said. She worries the proposed path, which would cut through her backyard, would interrupt her family’s life and her pets’ ability to play in her yard.”
I question the cost of having that section of eight or so houses ripped apart in the backyards,” she said, addressing council. “What would the savings be to omit that and just go through the front? I’m very upset about it, and I ask you to please reconsider.”Hartman expects to bid the project out by the end of the year or in early 2019. Construction would begin shortly thereafter, with the path opening by fall or winter 2019.Contact Ellie Potter at 574-6286 or [email protected]
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