Residents push for improvements on dangerous road in Forest Hill area: ‘this should be a priority’

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Residents in Richmond’s Forest Hill neighborhood are concerned about a dangerous roadway in the area. They say Bliley Road has very little space to walk on and flooding is also a constant worry.

Patti Faini is the Secretary for the Forest Hill Bliley Road Neighborhood Association. Faini told 8news, the effort to gain support has been a years-long process. Neighbors have several concerns surrounding the narrow pathway.

“It doesn’t give you that walkability that you want from a city neighborhood,” Faini said. “We have a bus stop up here. We have Veil Brewing down there. We have restaurants all within a mile, if we could just get up the street and walk there.”

Neighbors said there’s a lack of sidewalks, no shoulder and overgrown plants on each side of the road. Bad drainage leads to flooding which freezes over in the winter.

“When it does that and it freezes, we often have to have cars ending up in a ditch and rescue vehicles have to come,” Faini said.

After discussions with neighbors over the last several years, Kristen Larson, who represents the 4th district in Richmond’s City Council, requested a traffic study to be done on both Bliley Road and Westower Drive. Timmons Group, a construction and engineering company, conducted the study and provided an assessment ‘to best determine the location for potential bicycle and pedestrian improvements along the corridors and identify potential solutions for a safer, more accessible neighborhood.’

The study was released in Fall 2019, costing approximately $50,000. It showed deep paved ditches in many portions of the narrow roadway.

‘The existing Bliley Road corridor has a 1’ or less shoulder provided and typically has less than 1’
of space between the edge of pavement and the beginning of the ditch. In addition, the full
pavement width is approximately 20’, which leaves only 10’ for each travel direction.

Thomas Ruff, PE, PTOE

Between 2013 and 2018, there were 17 crashes on Bliley Road within the study area. 5 percent were attributed to speeding and 70 percent of the crashes occurred when the weather was clear.

“The speed limit is 35 even though it’s a residential road and you can see people kind of speed by,” Faini said.

According to Larson, there’s no safe walking access to public transit or Lucille M. Brown Middle School.

The Timmons Group study suggested four infrastructure improvement options but ultimately recommended the first option. The study showed the safest option for improving travel is providing a sidewalk behind the curb and gutter. According to the study, it provides a safe location for people and bicycles outside of the roadway.

However, it was the most expensive option, involving the need for extensive storm sewer piping and structures to accommodate the drainage. The improvements would cost $3,000,000.

“This should be a priority,” Larson said.

Larson told 8News, she believes the City should prioritize the projects that it has already invested in. Ever since these recommendations were presented to the community, She has included the first option in her Capital Improvement Plan recommendations for the Mayor’s proposed budget. 

In addition, two neighborhood associations will come together to keep the conversation going. The Forest Hill Bliley Road Neighborhood Association will meet with the West Lake Hills Neighborhood Association next week.

“I would like to work for it, even if it means it’s not going to happen for five to ten years,” Faini said.

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