The Suburbanization of North Valley Pike

Brent Finnegan -- June 29th, 2010

The North Valley Pike Strategic Corridor Plan, which recommends turning Route 11 north of Harrisonburg into a “two lane ‘main street,’ with a new parallel road serving through traffic,” was presented at a public meeting last week, and is scheduled to be finalized and presented to the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors in July.

A current draft of the plan in PDF format can be downloaded from the project website. The 56-page document lays out a guideline for how the area north of the Harrisonburg city limits should be developed.

Conceptual Map of North Valley Pike Corridor

Conceptual zoning map of North Valley Pike corridor

Rockingham County Director of Planning Rhonda Cooper says that area was chosen in part because of its proximity to the Harrisonburg and Rockingham County technology and research parks.

The plan, initiated by a county planners, began in September, 2009 with a public “workshop,” followed by the formation of a citizens advisory committee. Planners and committee members have been operating under the projection that “Route 11 nears failing capacity by 2030, which would lead to the conclusion that under a status quo scenario widening will be necessary.” According to the PDF:

At the March 2010 CAC meeting working groups spent time going over a series of scenarios:

Scenario 1: Do nothing, live with congestion
Scenario 2: Route 11 as an improved four lane, divided commercial corridor
Scenario 3: Route 11 as two lane through parkway, new parallel road becomes a commercial street
Scenario 4: Route 11 as two lane “main street”, with a new parallel road serving through traffic.

The CAC members discussed each of the scenarios trade-offs and eventually identified Scenario 4 as a clear favorite . . .

The plan details “smart growth,” horizontal mixed use, and other modern urban planning concepts, as well as transportation trends such as bike lanes, behind-the-building parking, and roundabouts.

Here’s one conceptual “before-and-after” depiction of what the area might look like in 20-30 years, taken from the document.

North Valley Pike Corridor Strategic Plan 1

Images from the North Valley Pike Corridor Strategic Plan

Cooper says the plan is meant as a general blueprint for the next 25 years, not a specific layout. “The plan focuses on form, mass, and streetscape rather than function.” She adds that any actual developments will require political will and public support. “We know this won’t happen overnight.”

Funding for improvements is anticipated to remain a challenge for the foreseeable future. “Paying for these sorts of road improvements wouldn’t all be the responsibility of the developer,” Cooper says, referring to possible proffers to help ease the burden of the county to pay for all improvements. “Creative ways of funding would still need to be sorted out.”

Comments on the plan are being accepted until Friday, July 2.

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