Three Chopt District candidates weigh in on safer streets and regional connectivity
On June 11, residents in Henrico County’s Three Chopt District will vote for a member of the Board of Supervisors in the primary election. Often the primary election can be more important than the general election for determining who will represent residents locally in Henrico.
Henrico County boasts welcoming neighborhoods and great schools and parks, but residents know the County also has some very unsafe streets. Last year there were 6,299 crashes on Henrico roads resulting in 2,741 injuries and 28 deaths. While just five months into this year, Henrico has already experienced 2,292 crashes on its roads, resulting in 1,041 injuries and 14 deaths.
According to the U.S. Census, approximately one-third of residents in the Richmond region do not own a car or do not drive on a regular basis because they can’t afford it, are not mentally or physically able, have had their license revoked, or are not yet driving age. Whether by choice or out of necessity, many Henrico County residents walk or ride bikes for transportation to get to essential destinations such as work or school, to run errands, or to shop. Many families and residents also enjoy walking or riding a bike for recreation or exercise.
The next member of the Board of Supervisors from the Three Chopt District will have the opportunity to make the County’s streets safer for all users – people in cars, on bikes, and people walking. To find out where the candidates stand on issues of street safety, Bike Walk RVA administered a candidate questionnaire to Tommy Branin and Dishant Shah. Their answers are below.
Question 1 – Safe Streets
Some of the most dangerous streets in the Three Chopt District include Old Wyndham Drive, Nuckols Road, Gaskins Road, Broad Street, and Parham Road. These roads are also home to many important destinations such as shopping centers, schools, and churches, and each of them have been the site of numerous pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in recent years. In fact, the rate of traffic-related pedestrian deaths continues to rise in Henrico County.
What will you do to see that these streets are made safer for all users?
“In my first term, I was the first person to implement crosswalks throughout my district to assist in safe pedestrian crossings and walkability. I was the first Supervisor in Henrico to install and finance 14 miles of sidewalk in Three Chopt during my first four-year term to further assist in walkability, runability, and ridability. We recently had two fatalities on Nuckols Road and per my instruction Henrico County has created a safety awareness and training video for pedestrians, vehicle drivers, and bike riders that is being played on HCTV in hopes of educating the general public better. I have further instructed Henrico Police to increase traffic stops, speeding enforcement, and on-sight education throughout the roads and areas listed. Safety for all pedestrians and bike riders remains one of the top priorities of mine as Three Chopt Supervisor.”
“First, I am deeply sorry and hurt by the loss of one of my friends who was a victim of bicycle deaths in Three Chopt district. In early months of 2019, we have already reached annual rates of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in Henrico, an alarming rate which prompted a news story. The roads mentioned here are a result of years of lack of planning and overdevelopment resulting in greater than expected traffic congestion. I will address this root cause of overdevelopment. Additionally, I will work with public works and VDOT to ensure we study the problem roads and have engineering solutions, which may include new or improved side walks and/or widening of roads. Given that the county has a surplus in reserves, I am not worried about where the funding will come from. Safety first! Our taxpayers deserve more.”
Question 2 – Funding
Making changes to roads in Henrico County will sometimes require funding for capital projects. Federal grants, state revenue-sharing, or local capital improvement dollars can be used in combination to both retrofit existing infrastructure and to build new, safe streets.
Do you support pursuing funding for biking and walking infrastructure projects? If so, how?
“With county funds, I have installed the first bike lanes in the county. I have also utilized grants and state and federal matching funds to aggressively install 14 miles of sidewalk and am continuing to review the balance of Three Chopt’s needs to further enhance my sidewalk and bike lane program. I agree with and will continue using these funding sources to continue increasing walkable and rideable areas across Three Chopt. I have successfully leveraged strong partnerships to fund these projects and will continue to actively pursue and consider creative ways to make Henrico County an even better and safer place to walk, ride, and enjoy the outdoors.”
“Yes, absolutely. Given reasons mentioned above, we need to ensure we don’t continue on an upwards trend on injuries and fatalities. The equation is simple, safe streets = saved lives. As supervisor, I will seek out funding as needed for safer streets. More importantly, I will ensure that once funding is secured, it is wisely used in a reasonable period of time. Take the Sadler Road project for example. It has been on the books for 24 years and still no changes. That is unacceptable.”
Question 3: Policies and Programs
In addition to on-the-ground infrastructure, what policies and programs need to be put in place to make biking and walking safer and more enjoyable for people of all ages in Henrico County? What steps will you take to see that these policies and programs are approved or put into practice?
“Henrico County has put into place a general policy that requires all future developments to include sidewalks and superpaths. Although this policy is being implemented all throughout the county, the development community understands the priority that Three Chopt District specifically places on walkability and rideability. Our Recs and Parks Department strives to provide fun walks, 5ks, and utilization of the Capital Trail to residents and visitors. Henrico County paid for a spur connecting Dorey Park to the Capital Trail to provide bathrooms and a safe place to park for biking enthusiasts. This month, I revealed my preliminary 10k route to Sports Backers that is planned within the Three Chopt District to utilize the sidewalks, bike lanes, and superpaths that we have invested in for a safe, managed course that keeps people outdoors.”
“Listening to needs of the communities is where I would start. Each neighborhood is different, traffic patters are different and I will start by talking with constituents and HOAs as to addressing specific needs of the communities based on what impacts them most. Sharing their needs and problems with the county and VDOT engineers will enable us to prioritize problem areas and come up with better, specific solutions. I will also look at possible use of a SMART scale system which is used by VDOT for county use of prioritizing road/traffic projects in dire need.”
Question 4 – Vision Zero
Henrico County leads the region in pedestrian deaths with six this year, and saw nine pedestrian fatalities and 110 injuries last year. Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.
Will you support the creation of a Vision Zero Action Plan by Henrico County leadership to coordinate the participation of multiple County agencies in contributing to eliminating fatalities and injuries on County roads?
“Yes, Henrico County is well known for coordinating efforts through all departments which is referred to as “The Henrico Way.” As previously stated, one of my top priorities in ensuring that we have the safest place in the region to walk, ride, and run while enjoying our first-class parks and beautiful outdoor amenities offered to all of our citizens.”
“I will review all options necessary to ensure we don’t continue on this alarming upward trend of pedestrian and bicyclists fatalities in Henrico. I am not familiar with a Vision Zero Action Plan yet, however would be glad to review such plan and/or any suggestions for addressing the needs of safer roads.”
Question 5 – Transit and Pedestrian Movement
Recently, bus transit stops have been positioned on West Broad Street in the Three Chopt district, which will increase pedestrian movement across a 6-8 lane road. What steps will you take to ensure people can walk to transit safely along this corridor?
“When public transportation was being discussed, I voiced my concern about Short Pump being the highest accident rated area in the state. With public transportation being implemented, there is currently no safe way to cross Broad Street. With repeated requests to VDOT, I have secured one crosswalk in the Short Pump area and have begun creating plans for future crosswalks that will most likely be sidewalks to ensure safe pedestrian movement across Broad.”
“I will ensure we have safe access to these bus stops for pedestrians and/or bicyclists who access these routes. If these roads lack sidewalks and are prioritized, I’ll make sure we get these done.”
Question 6 – Plans and Projects
In the last three years, the City of Richmond has developed a Bicycle Master Plan, Chesterfield County has developed a Bikeways and Trails Plan, and Hanover has developed an Active Living and Healthy Neighborhoods Plan. These plans set long-term visions for those localities for how to improve biking and walking for transportation and recreation. Henrico County does not yet have a comparable plan.
If elected, would you support development of a walking/biking infrastructure plan for Henrico County during your term in office? How?
“Although Henrico County has not put forth money to study and create plans, Three Chopt District and Henrico have moved forward with funding implementation, creating, and installing bicycle lanes, sidewalks, and safe pedestrian crossings. When reelected, I plan to continue the same aggressive implementation schedule and further support these added improvements. We do not need a study for me to understand the need for more bike lanes, crosswalks, and sidewalks. In fact, I actively plan to connect all subdivisions in Three Chopt for rideability and walkability over the next few years to ensure that we are the best place to safely ride and walk.”
“Yes I will. For all reasons mentioned above, we need such a plan to ensure safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists. It is concerning that Henrico does not have any such plan in place, yet we have a concerning rise in fatalities and injuries. I will make it a priority for the county to devise and implement a plan for bikeways and side walks. Input from constituents will be key during preparation of such a plan. This will be done by means of town halls, public forums and community meetings.”
Question 7 – Regional Connectivity
The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently pursuing the study of a new Ashland to Petersburg Trail, a north-south paved multi-use trail that has the potential to connect several localities and intersect with the Virginia Capital Trail and Appomattox River Trail, contributing to what will ultimately become a regional trail network. This project would have major safety benefits for people biking and walking, as well as significant economic development potential for nearby communities in Henrico County.
If elected, what will you do to advance this project?
“Four years ago, I began working with the Director of Public Works in Henrico and my adjoining Hanover County District Supervisor to recommend a regional trail connecting our localities together via an old trolley line to create a regional park. I then pursued federal grants through community partners and helped establish a Henrico, Hanover, Richmond, Capital Trail on the north side of our county. As the first person in Henrico to promote regional cooperation on a shared park and trails network, I always have and always will champion such efforts to promote active lifestyles and healthy communities across our region.”
“This sounds exciting. I will review this project in detail and work with VDOT, local county engineers and most importantly, the neighborhoods which will be directly affected by this trail.”
Sports Backers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and does not endorse candidates or political parties. Sports Backers’ candidate questionnaire is strictly educational in nature. For more information about safer streets projects and policies, join our email list! We’re always talking about opportunities to improve our region’s roads and infrastructure.