How to Inconvenience Drivers and Punish Businesses for No Discernible Reason

Pulse construction on Broad Street — at a location where construction is actually occurring. (Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch)

One of these days, when Richmond’s Pulse service is running buses up and down the Broad Street corridor, and investors are redeveloping properties around the transit stops, Richmonders will be really glad they have a bus rapid transit system. But until then, residents of the entire metropolitan area can be forgiven for roundly cursing the project.

Construction, which began in August 2016, is still ongoing. The contractor hopes to complete work by the end of the year. In the meantime, the city has closed off two lanes (one lane each way) from automobile traffic, significantly adding to the hassle factor of driving on the transportation artery.

This has been a pet peeve of mine from the very beginning. Miles of Broad Street are afflicted with traffic cones. That would be fine if construction work were actually occurring the full length of the corridor. But it’s not. Work appears to be occur, in a most desultory manner, only at a few locations at a time.

Now, I don’t expect anyone to lose any sleep over Henrico resident Jim Bacon incurring an additional five or ten minutes driving time. But the businesses lining the corridor do warrant consideration, and many of them have suffered a marked decline in business. Richmond City Councilwoman Kimberly Gray has proposed compensating those businesses from a $3.2 million pot of money set aside to reward the contractor, Lane Construction, as an incentive for early completion of the project. The prospects of early completion are fading rapidly, so the idea, it seems to me, does have merit.

Putting up with street construction is an inevitable hazard of living in the city — someone always seems to be patching asphalt, accessing water lines, laying cable — and businesses have to grin and bear it. But cordoning off two lanes along miles of Broad Street for nearly a year and a half seems mind-numbingly unnecessary. I can think of no reason why Lane Construction couldn’t close only those street segments it’s working on when it’s doing the work.

Virginia Department of Transportation contractors put down traffic cones when they’re doing work and pick them up when they’re not. Presumably in adherence to VDOT guidelines, they keep lanes open as much as they can. Why can’t Richmond do the same thing?

Gray could do the public a service by tracking down who in the city public works department approved a construction plan that so unnecessarily inconvenienced drivers and hurt local businesses.

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One response to “How to Inconvenience Drivers and Punish Businesses for No Discernible Reason

  1. If you REALLY want see irate – wait until VDOT implements “access management” .. an innocuous sounding phrase but one in which both driers nd businesses will scream bloody murder.

    Basically they are putting medians between the two directions of traffic and restricting left turns to the lights where folks will have to make a u-turn to get back to the business that they used to turn left across traffic.

    That means that a certain number of folks are not going to visit that business unless they are on the side the business is on.

    VDOT is phasing this in across the state – prioritizing places where the accidents rates – and/or congestion levels warrant it.

    The Smart Growth folks are in favor of this – as a partial antidote to “Stroades”. Made even better if bike and ped are provided with infrastructure that makes those activities safer and more separated from higher speed traffic.

    here’s an article reporting on the unhappiness of businesses:

    http://www.thepilot.com/news/proposed-changes-to-u-s-frustrating-businesses/article_70287d5e-efb3-11e6-a293-e7709a088df5.html

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