Some skeptical of planned Jahnke Road improvement project

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Big changes are coming to the busy Jahnke Road corridor in south Richmond, where a major road project is underway along the 1.5-mile stretch between Blakemore Road and Forest Hill Avenue. It’s an area that has seen hundreds of accidents in recent years. The project is designed to improve safety, but not everyone believes it will make the roadway safer or more efficient at all.

Glen Stafford, Jr. Has run a limousine service out of his home in the 6000 block of Jahnke Road for 25 years, but that is about to change.

“They’re gonna come in and take about half the yard out,” said Stafford. “I’ll have to move once they come through. I won’t be able to do what I’m doing now.”

He and more than 80 other property owners have signed over the right of way on their yards for the Jahnke Road Improvement Project.

“It’s just going to happen, so you fight them or you take the money. We took a small check,” Stafford said.

The project will divide the two lanes of traffic with a 16-foot median. It is designed to improve the flow of traffic but will not add more lanes– a plan that has some scratching their heads.

“If anything, I’d think it would probably make it more congested, said Chris Wykle, manager of an auto care business along the impacted stretch. “The traffic flow is pretty bad here but I don’t see how it’s going to help any if they’re not going to widen the lanes.”

At the first of four public meetings beginning in 2009, residents rejected three and four lane designs. The design approved by the city planning commission will bring a new curb, gutter and storm sewer system with left turn lanes at intersections blocked by the median, but some people say that instead, they need traffic lights, especially at Newell Road.

“Right now, people are just taking chances because they have to take a shot and shoot out whenever they can,” said Wykle.

Paul Karns, a spokesman for the public works department, said current traffic counts do not justify a signal at the intersection. With the project moving full speed ahead, residents are left to buckle up for the ride.

A less controversial element: the project will also add sidewalks and bike paths to the area, making it safer for pedestrians. There will also be an enclosed undergournd drainage system, eliminating open ditches along the road. Advertisement for construction will begin in December 2016.

The project will cost an estimated $14 million to complete. It is funded with federal, state and city funds.

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