Community gives input on new plan for Route 419

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ROANOKE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - People living near Roanoke County's busiest road, Route 419, got to see the plans Wednesday night to redesign it.

The county wants to make pedestrian improvements and make the area easier for traffic to pass through.

Some people want to see the road become more pedestrian and bike friendly.

Right now, 419 doesn't even have sidewalks, but for others, who sit in traffic jams there on a day-to-day basis, they just want to see traffic move smoother.

It's a tall order to accommodate both sides, but the county's consultant Stantec says it's something they can accomplish.

One representative from Stantec, Mike Rutkowski, says it's no secret that something needs to be done about the corridor.

"There's a lot of inherent problems, especially during the peak hours. People are making brash moves, they're passing in right-turn lanes, trying to pass through lanes, and they're breaking the law basically," said Rutkowski.

For people living in the area, like Cecil Jones, those traffic issues are a day-to-day headache.

"It looks like a parking lot at certain times during the day. Traffic cannot move anywhere. Just large congestion, the amount of traffic in the area. You have too many intersections in the area that allows traffic to enter 419 at different times and sometimes they're not synchronized," said Jones.

Rutkowski says part of the plan to reduce those traffic jams is a diverging diamond at the intersection with Route 220.

Another plan is to reduce the amount of business entrances that connect with 419.

"We have some properties out there that have four access points, three to four access points coming off of 419. That means every ingress-egress move by a vehicle has to get onto and off of 419. If we can advocate for better access management and cross-access, we take cars off of 419. It's that simple," said Rutkowski.

Other people say, to revitalize the area, the first focus needs to be on sidewalks and crosswalks.

The lack of pedestrian infrastructure especially affects the disabled, like Stephen Grammer.

"Crossing the street to get to a restaurant without a proper cross-walk, with countdowns and nice broad, easy slopes, you're taking your life in your hand," said Nathan Aldrige, Grammer's caretaker.

Rutkowski says those crossings are a big part of the proposal.

"Providing high-visibility crosswalks, better lighting, even street trees and sidewalks where they don't even exist is the basic element to improve that walkability aspect," said Rutkowski.

Rutkowski says the redesign plans should be complete by the end of March.

Jones says, he's glad he's had some input.

"To feel like you have some input to the design process, that helps everybody feel a lot more comfortable with what is being done," said Jones.

Rutkowski also says, because they aren't proposing any changes to the actual roadway, like adding lanes, the project can be done relatively cheaply.