Monday Q&A: Five hours to Williamsburg

In a little more than two years, there will be new lane connecting Richmond and Williamsburg, and it’s not on Interstate 64.

The Virginia Capital Trail, a 50-mile-long paved route for cyclists and pedestrians, has been championed for the past five years by Virginia Capital Trail Foundation executive director Beth Weisbrod. BizSense caught up with Weisbrod to see how the project, which began in 2005, is coming along.

Richmond BizSense: Where does the project stand?

Beth Weisbrod: We are getting ready to break ground in the spring for the Sherwood Forest section of the trail through Charles City. That will add about 13 miles to the trail.

RBS: When it’s all said and done, how much will the trail have cost?

BW: It’s going to cost about $1 million per mile, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t money that would otherwise be going to the highways or roads. These are federal funds that, if we weren’t using them on a trail here, they would be used on a trail somewhere else in the state.

RBS: How much do you expect the trail to cost in upkeep annually?

BW: We aren’t sure just yet, but we do know we’re going to try and lean on volunteers to do a large part of the upkeep.

RBS: This project has been delayed a few times. What are the major challenges you have faced?

BW: Whenever you do a project like this, it can be a challenge working with everyone’s needs. It has been challenging at times finding the best alignment for trail users and the countries. VDOT has to coordinate all of that.

For example, Henrico County was hoping to have the trail run past the north side of Four Mile Creek Park, but the plan was for it to pass through the south side. It was a rather major redesign, so it held things up. But again, any time you have a project like this you are going to run into these sorts of concerns.

RBS: Looking at this from a business perspective, how will the trail help economic development?

BW: Trails like this in other parts of Virginia and in other states generate some compelling numbers. For example, the Washington and Old Dominion trail in Northern Virginia in 2004 counted 1.7 million users through a combination of locals and non-locals. All told, it generated $12 million in the local economy.

I think a good comparison would be the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, which in 2010 generated about $7.9 million. Even on the low end, the numbers are going to be great.

RBS: What about property values? How does the trail affect those?

BW: The figures we’ve seen are anywhere from a 5 to 25 percent increase for properties within a quarter-mile of the trail. In 2006, there was a 25 percent increase in premium on properties close to the Katy Trail in Dallas. For Indianapolis in 2003, the amenity value in trails was associated with over $140 million in increased property value.

RBS: How long would it take to bike from Richmond to Williamsburg?

BW: It’s about 50 miles, so at a normal human being pace, it would probably take about five hours.

RBS: What have the past five years been like for you?

BW: It’s really exciting for me to be working on a project that has such broad appeal. Given that I’ve spent my life outside running and biking, it’s great to be a part of something like this.

In a little more than two years, there will be new lane connecting Richmond and Williamsburg, and it’s not on Interstate 64.

The Virginia Capital Trail, a 50-mile-long paved route for cyclists and pedestrians, has been championed for the past five years by Virginia Capital Trail Foundation executive director Beth Weisbrod. BizSense caught up with Weisbrod to see how the project, which began in 2005, is coming along.

Richmond BizSense: Where does the project stand?

Beth Weisbrod: We are getting ready to break ground in the spring for the Sherwood Forest section of the trail through Charles City. That will add about 13 miles to the trail.

RBS: When it’s all said and done, how much will the trail have cost?

BW: It’s going to cost about $1 million per mile, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t money that would otherwise be going to the highways or roads. These are federal funds that, if we weren’t using them on a trail here, they would be used on a trail somewhere else in the state.

RBS: How much do you expect the trail to cost in upkeep annually?

BW: We aren’t sure just yet, but we do know we’re going to try and lean on volunteers to do a large part of the upkeep.

RBS: This project has been delayed a few times. What are the major challenges you have faced?

BW: Whenever you do a project like this, it can be a challenge working with everyone’s needs. It has been challenging at times finding the best alignment for trail users and the countries. VDOT has to coordinate all of that.

For example, Henrico County was hoping to have the trail run past the north side of Four Mile Creek Park, but the plan was for it to pass through the south side. It was a rather major redesign, so it held things up. But again, any time you have a project like this you are going to run into these sorts of concerns.

RBS: Looking at this from a business perspective, how will the trail help economic development?

BW: Trails like this in other parts of Virginia and in other states generate some compelling numbers. For example, the Washington and Old Dominion trail in Northern Virginia in 2004 counted 1.7 million users through a combination of locals and non-locals. All told, it generated $12 million in the local economy.

I think a good comparison would be the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia, which in 2010 generated about $7.9 million. Even on the low end, the numbers are going to be great.

RBS: What about property values? How does the trail affect those?

BW: The figures we’ve seen are anywhere from a 5 to 25 percent increase for properties within a quarter-mile of the trail. In 2006, there was a 25 percent increase in premium on properties close to the Katy Trail in Dallas. For Indianapolis in 2003, the amenity value in trails was associated with over $140 million in increased property value.

RBS: How long would it take to bike from Richmond to Williamsburg?

BW: It’s about 50 miles, so at a normal human being pace, it would probably take about five hours.

RBS: What have the past five years been like for you?

BW: It’s really exciting for me to be working on a project that has such broad appeal. Given that I’ve spent my life outside running and biking, it’s great to be a part of something like this.

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Jerry
Jerry
10 years ago

Interesting, Charles City, Charles City County, Williamsburg, even the City of Richmond doing their part. Where is Henrico County in all this, I don’t believe they have put one shovel in the ground.. A completed capital trial would be a nice draw in recruiting corporate clients and jobs to the greater Richmond area. How ’bout it Henrico, quit dragging your feet…

Sabet Stroman
Sabet Stroman
10 years ago

I think the trail is a great idea…but $1 million per mile???? Please tell me this is a typo.

Government Waste 101
Government Waste 101
10 years ago

$50 million to build a bike trail from Richmond to Williamsburg? Federal Funds?

I thought the goverment was having trouble paying its bills. I thought we had a deficit.

I thought the rich needed to pay more money so that poor people could eat? Obama said he needed more money to spend.

Nanny State
Nanny State
10 years ago

$1 million dollars per mile and then relying on volunteers for the upkeep. Good Luck!

Cullen Seltzer
Cullen Seltzer
10 years ago

While $50 million is a lot of money, spent over about 8 or 9 years, it’s not an enormous hit to the overall transportation budget. Plus, bikers and walkers account for a much higher proportion of transportation miles than is spent on them in infrastructure dollars. Finally, the huge economic development dividends, the divdends in health and fitness, and the encouragement of non-fossil fuel transportation efforts all make this investment in infrastructure a smart and fiscally sound choice. In a few short years, when this project is complete, we’ll all be thankful for its enormous success and for the great… Read more »

Myinnermind
Myinnermind
10 years ago

$1 million per mile is cheap. How much does it cost per mile to build car roads? I assure you well over $1 million per mile, for each lane, each direction.

Kudos to the Cap Trail Foudnation of ran excellent job and excellent focus. We’ll all benefit from this great asset in Virginia.

Complete Waste
Complete Waste
10 years ago

As a cyclist I would like to see safe bike trails built all over central Virginia. For $50 million we could have re-striped a thousand miles of roads for bike lanes. Putting all of that money into a single gold-plated lane that goes between two points that nobody cares about is insane. Do you really think that a family with kids on bikes is going to ride 50 miles? How about a short loop around Richmond and another around Williamsburg? No one has need for the parts in between. As evidenced during my ride in the Cap-to-Cap century, serious road… Read more »

Re: Chairman VCTF
Re: Chairman VCTF
10 years ago

“Not an enormous hit to the overall transportation budget”!!! This is absolutely the mindset that frustrates private business. The amount could be small or large relative to the overall transportation funds and yet it still does not account for the necessity or validity for building it. It’s beyond comical that a supporter of the project, with intimate knowledge of the hundreds of pros/cons and hurdles the trail must navigate, chooses to defend it by saying it’s only a “small amount” of the money dedicated towards transportation. Who cares? That’s in no way a justification for continued waste! Secondly, “encouragement of… Read more »

Sean Cusack
Sean Cusack
10 years ago

The Virginia Capital Trail is one more way that our community is fighting obesity. Providing safe and convenient resources will encourage people to become more active in their lifestyle. This trail is already being used in the areas where it is completed. The trail will have amenities, the main purpose is not to create a “road between the two areas.” The purpose is to create a safe and convenient place for people to walk, run, cycle, etc. This trail is far different than bike lanes and much more useful.

Sean Cusack
VCTF Board Member

Jason
Jason
10 years ago

$1million per mile is nearly the cost of a two lane rural road. Vastly different than a 12ft wide bike path. What’s included in the $1million?

Sabet Stroman
Sabet Stroman
10 years ago

I am responding again- although the discussion is probably over. I ride on wonderful bike trails in New Hampshire that go from town to town, that were created from old railway systems. The trails are probably six feet wide, hard packed dirt and are maintained by volunteers. There are tons of people on the trail summer and winter. There are many more creative, economic solutions than a trail that costs a million dollars a mile.