The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to turn Free Bridge Lane into a pedestrian and cyclist promenade.
Free Bridge Lane is currently open as a low-volume, unstriped roadway that connects Richmond Road to Darden Towe Park. It is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. The development comes from the 2019 Pantops Master Plan, which envisioned a “green street” with better pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure.
In January, the Pantops Community Advisory Committee weighed converting Free Bridge Lane into a one-way street or making it a paved path for pedestrians, cyclists and people with mobility devices to use. The promenade earned support from community members and Rivanna District Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley, in whose district Free Bridge Lane lies.
“That’s a big plus for our community and for our residents to be able to walk and enjoy nature,” LaPisto-Kirtley told The Daily Progress in February.
Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he was surprised the one-way street was an option.
“I thought we were just closing this down to vehicle traffic,” Gallaway said.
It will be some time before the promenade is implemented. According to the county’s principal transportation planner Jessica Hersh-Ballering, the county will need to come up with a cost estimate.
“We don’t know if this looks like $20,000 or $200,000. We don’t have $20,000 or $200,000 set aside for this, so we’d be coming back to you to get funding identified,” Hersh-Ballering told the supervisors.
That range depends on what amenities the county decides to put on the promenade. Benches, a bioretention cell to help treat stormwater and public art are all options, as well as bathrooms and water fountains.
Hersh-Ballering said that the promenade design will have lower maintenance costs than if the county took over Free Bridge Lane and turned it into a one-way street. The pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly option also means the county wouldn’t need to come up with all of the funding at once: it could be implemented in pieces. That’s not possible with a one-way street, Hersh-Ballering said.
VDOT will be paving Free Bridge Lane this spring.
“That would give us the opportunity to just have a very nice roadway to start this pilot program with,” Hersh-Ballering said.
County staff will also work with a consulting firm to develop a pilot program to test out the promenade design. From there, staff will come up with a final design to be implemented at some point in the future.
“I’m ready to hang the gates tomorrow,” Supervisor Ann Mallek said.