The shortest distance between any two points—crosswalk signals, for instance—is a straight line. The same goes for a stroll down Water Street, from the front doors of Second Street Gallery to the rear entrance of CVS Pharmacy. Or, that’s how it worked before the Landmark Hotel.
Where the sidewalk ends: Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike will, it is hoped, have an easier time negotiating the intersection of Water and SE Second streets in July, when a few construction barriers are removed from the backside of the Landmark Hotel.
During construction of the would-be 10-story hotel and ongoing excavation work at the dormant site, the path is a bit longer, thanks to the wooden and concrete construction barriers that eliminate a half-block of sidewalk and one westbound lane at Second Street SE. Pedestrians cross Water Street at Third SE, walk a block beneath the awning of the parking garage, and round the two-crosswalk elbow at Second SE into the home stretch.
And that’s the path of the patient man. Last week, a reporter watched more than a few locals move diagonally from the intersection’s southeast corner to the northwest, including one man wheeling a stroller.
“It’s caused a detour literally for years—we’ve all learned to work around it but we’re very, very tired of it,” a reader commented on the C-VILLE website. “It’s a hazard and encourages unsafe street crossing.”
However, city officials and construction workers say the intersection will return to its normal state during the next month or so. City traffic engineer Jeanie Alexander says via e-mail that the construction barriers on Water Street will be removed in July, when the city’s $808,000 beautification of Second Street is complete.
“The westbound through lane will return and the existing lane will once again be a left turn lane,” says Alexander. “The crosswalk will also return.” Plans show both a pedestrian light and a bicycle rack at the portion of Second Street SE that intersects with Water.
Chris Weatherford, a project manager for Barton Malow, refers to the construction barriers along Water Street as a “bump out,” and says he has not received any complaints about the intersection from pedestrians.
“We kind of grandfathered that [bump out] from the hotel project,” says Weatherford. “It’s basically been in that same spot since the hotel project began. That’s where that delineation came from.”
While a single westbound lane on Water Street forces some through-traffic to wait for the occasional southbound turn, it might also make for a slightly more harrowing passage for local cyclists. Charlottesville’s 2003 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan identifies Water Street between West Main and East High streets as a “medium priority” site for transportation improvements, and bicycle lanes are still hard to come by.
“Due to existing conditions, bike lanes probably would not fit well on Water Street,” reads the plan. “The use of shared use lane arrows and signs should be considered to reinforce the likely presence of bicyclists.”
As for the pedestrian path, Weatherford says that the “bump out” will be replaced by a “bulb out,” which will improve visibility for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike.
“An all-new sidewalk will go up to CVS,” says Weatherford. “The whole thing will look similar to what has been completed on Fifth Street.”
Having a hard time picturing the good ol’ days of the intersection? So is Google Maps. Click on the “street view” for the intersection, and it shows an image of the Landmark’s infancy—only three stories tall when the picture was taken—with barriers in the same place. Time for an update.
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