RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than three months after construction work began on one of Richmond’s busiest roadways, one phase of the Broad Street Gateway and Corridor Improvements Project wrapped Friday, several weeks ahead of schedule.
Crews completed the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Pulse bus-only lane painting project on Friday, finishing up on Broad Street eastbound between Belvedere and 3rd Streets as the bus-only lanes were painted red.
However, there is still more work to come on Broad Street.
“BUS ONLY” markings on top of the red paint are set to follow in August. A city spokesperson told 8News that those “stamps” are expected “sooner rather than later.”
Starting Monday, July 25, streetscaping work is set to begin on the south sidewalk on Broad Street from Hamilton Street heading east. The first portion of streetscaping is happening between North Belmont Avenue and Wayne Street, according to the project website.
For some local business owners on Broad Street, this raised concern about how long they’ll have to wait for construction to conclude.
“Even in the process of, you know, starting even with the GRTC coming in, a lot of the concerns that have just now compounded now because of this new construction happening, it’s just been so ongoing,” Mahri Jones, owner of Parlor Salon on West Broad Street, said. “There’s been no break from it, essentially. They took away parking, they took away so many things that would’ve helped really build this area, and, most importantly, when GRTC came through, they took away that left turn on Belvedere.”
Jones said she first started coming to the area in 1999, and opened Parlor Salon in July of 2014. Over the years, she has watched Broad Street transform.
“Clients are already having a hard enough time just to find a place to park,” she said. “If people are coming here, and I say this with so much love and respect of our clientele and anyone that comes down here regularly, it’s a choice, like, it’s not easy to get to, especially if you’re trying to come down here from Belvedere.”
In the days before the Broad Street repaving project began, 8News spoke with local workers who shared Jones’ sentiments. Residents also expressed concerns over the safety of Broad Street.
According to a release, the red bus-only lanes are meant to improve safety along the stretch of road, highlighting the different usage of each lane for other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.
But Jones and her employees noted that the bright red could be difficult to see for those who are color blind, and that a patterned paint job might have been more beneficial.
Jones noted that she was supportive of increasing accessibility to Broad Street, primarily the Arts District where her business is located, but that it might have been a missed opportunity to not include bike lanes in the repaving and painting processes.
“It’s already hard enough,” Jones said. “I feel way more privileged that I’m not counting on walk-through and walk-by traffic. But most of these businesses are, and, again, when you take away those turns, when you do all this construction zoning, you’re making it harder and harder to build up the developments that you’re saying that you’re so passionate about, especially with Jackson Ward.”
A spokesperson with the city told 8News on Friday that they have already seen positive changes in driving behaviors on Broad Street since the red lane painting began.
8News previously spoke with Department of Public Works Director Bobby Vincent in the early stages of the Broad Street repaving project.
“Broad Street didn’t get in the condition that it’s in overnight, and, with any construction project that you do, it’s going to be a little bit of a deconstruction phase that people have to go through,” he said at the time. “We’re trying to do our best to put our best foot forward to lighten the burden on our businesses and our homeowners along that stretch of road.”
Additional construction as part of this massive project along the Broad Street corridor is expected to continue through Fall 2023. Work on the public utility waterline project is expected to begin next spring, from 3rd Street east to Interstate-95. The third phase of the Richmond Signal System project is ongoing through December.
“I know that they’re doing more economic recovery for new businesses coming in over here, which I think is great — anything that’s going to help support this area,” Jones said. “But you’re not doing anything to compensate or support the businesses that have been here, that have been literally clawing and scraping just to get by.”