VDOT and the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation are building a 55 mile bike & pedestrian trail linking Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Richmond – the current and former capitals of Virginia.

Parts of the trail are already open in James City County: see photos here.

Current discussions are ongoing regarding the exact route and location of the trail in the Varina area of Henrico Co. This is where things get depressing.

First, there’s the timing. According to the planners, the trail won’t open until 2012. And we all know how accurate construction projections are, so it very possibly could take even longer. Call me impatient, but I was hoping for a quicker completion.

Second, there’s Henrico Co. government who seem to be trying their best to design this project to suit their car-dependant needs. Today’s TD outlines the desire of Henrico Board of Supervisors Chairman James B. Donati Jr.:

…he hopes to influence the trail’s design.

He believes the trail should be built as an extended shoulder of Route 5, instead of a swath of pavement separated by grass and landscaping.

He contends a wide shoulder would make Route 5 safer, because it would accommodate cyclists and slow-moving farm equipment, plus give room for delivery trucks to stop without impeding traffic on the 55-mph road.

Now contrast this with the stated purpose of the trail, as outlined by the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation- which is collecting private money to supplement inadequate government funds for this project:

The Trail is designed for non-motorized use and welcomes hikers, cyclists, walkers, joggers, skaters, birders, families taking short day trips and chaperoned school children on eco-field trips.

The Trail will provide safe recreational access to the region and link popular tourism destinations. It will offer cyclists a safe transportation alternative to Route 5…

So somehow in the twisted world of Donati and possibly others in Henrico gov’t, the trail should be open to use by “slow-moving farm equipment” and parked delivery trucks- which is completely incompatible not only with the trail’s purpose, but also with bicycle and pedestrian safety, and presumably the premise under which funds for the trail were secured.

And it’s galling that he argues that this would make a “safer” Route 5. Safer for whom? The only people who benefit from Donati’s vision are those in cars- not those who’re using the Capital Trail.

Can you see groups of school children on eco-field trips dodging tractors and walking around UPS vans while 55 mph+ SUVs and tractor trailers zoom by only inches away? Brilliant idea!

And of course, the newspaper, who we assume was present when Donati made these comments, did not bother to question him on the contradiction between his vision and the trail’s purpose (or if they did, they neglected to report it.) Because, really, who in Richmond doesn’t want to make the world safer for cars, even if it’s at the expense of pedestrians, cyclists, and little school children?

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