Danville resident Tedd Goldean opposed a city proposal to reduce Westover Drive from four lanes to two and add two bike lanes.
But listening to officials at a public input meeting on the project Wednesday night changed his mind.
“It was very thorough and it was impressive,” Goldean, 50, said of the statistics on wreck numbers, speeding and other factors included in a report on the corridor.
The city of Danville and its consultant who studied Westover and prepared the report, EPR, PC in Charlottesville, hosted a public meeting on the proposed project at Park Avenue Elementary School.
The main reasons officials want the change are safety and efficiency. The travel lanes are too narrow and there is not enough traffic to justify four of them, city engineer Brian Dunevant explained via email.
Each driver’s lane is less than 9 feet wide, which fails to meet state road standards for a minor arterial road like Westover, said EPR project manager Jessica Dimmick. Guidelines call for each lane to be 11 feet wide.
Westover’s total width is about 36 feet.
“If you subtract out the width of the roadway markings, the travel lane widths are less than 9 feet,” Dunevant said.
If the project is done, Westover’s width would stay the same with each of the two driving lanes at 11 feet.
The city had discussed the project several times over the years, but officials did not pursue changes because Danville would lose annual maintenance payments from the Virginia Department of Transportation because it would reduce lane miles, Dunevant said.
A change in the state code a few years ago, however, allows localities to convert a certain number of lane miles to bike lanes without losing maintenance payments, he said.
EPR examined Westover’s traffic volume, crash data, speeds and other factors.
“The crash rate is higher than would typically be expected on this road with this type of volume,” Dimmick said.
Speed studies there showed drivers traveling faster than the 40-mile-per-hour speed limit.
In addition, decreasing the number of lanes provides an opportunity to add room for bicyclists, Dunevant said.
“This corridor is listed in the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan and is currently being used by bicyclists,” he said. “This project is viewed as an improvement to the community and the corridor by improving safety while creating a more multi-modal environment and expanding recreational opportunities.”
The West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan is a document that promotes bicycling in the West Piedmont Planning District, which includes the cities of Danville and Martinsville, the town of Rocky Mount, and Pittsylvania, Henry, Franklin and Patrick counties.
The plan was prepared by the West Piedmont Planning District Commission and adopted Feb. 22, 2018.
The project would cover slightly more than 4 miles along the Westover corridor from Blair Loop Road at Dollar General to near the tie-in at U.S. 58 at the western end.
Blair Loop Road resident Judith Ostrowski rides her bike along Westover about three times a week during the warm months. She supports the project.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Ostrowski, 53, said during an interview at the meeting. “People drive way too fast and we need a bike lane. You have to have a bit of courage to ride a bike on Westover.”
Its cost would depend on how the project is done, Dunevant said.
Resurfacing and re-striping the entire corridor would cost around $1.2 million. But if existing markings were removed without a complete resurfacing, the cost would be less, Dunevant said.
“We would need to do more evaluation to determine the best approach to achieve the best results,” he said.
Residents who would like to comment on the proposed project can call Danville Public Works’ engineering office at (434) 799-5019.
Written comments can be submitted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 3300 Danville, VA 24543.
The deadline for comments is Nov. 13.
Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987.