Thursday, June 2, 2011

SU's President Speaks out on Millwood Ave Proposal

Tracy Fitzsimmons, President of Shenandoah University:

Setting the Record Straight on Millwood
One of the things I love about our community is how much local citizens care about Winchester, which has been reflected in the public dialogue over the past months on both sides of the Millwood issue.

I speak on behalf of the students, trustees, faculty and staff of Shenandoah University in saying that Shenandoah, too, cares deeply about our local community. I would not be enthusiastic about the potential re-location of Millwood Avenue if I did not believe that it would be good for both the City and the University.

In response to some of the concerns raised, I offer the following clarifications:

•    A consultant was hired because neither the City Council nor the University leaders are traffic experts. The consultants, Gorove/Slade, were hired because of their expertise in City/University transportation issues and their strong emphasis on stakeholder participation. From what I can tell after reading the report, they have based their recommendation on data and best practices.

•    The City of Winchester did not pay for the traffic consultants. The funds came from transportation planning funds available to the Metropolitan Planning Organization. These funds could not have been used to address other local needs like education or signage.

•    The re-location of Millwood has always been specifically aimed at improving traffic safety and flow through the Route 50 gateway and creating a nicer entrance to both Winchester and Shenandoah.

•    It will also facilitate the safe continuation of Winchester’s Green Circle trail, which addresses the City’s goals of promoting open spaces and alternative means of transportation.

•    The recommendation of the traffic experts is best understood as a re-location – not closure, but re-location - of Millwood Avenue about 100 feet to the south by adding a new, dedicated, continuous right-hand turn lane that would be carved out of current University property.

•    The consultant’s recommendation estimates that such a re-location of Millwood would reduce the potential for accidents and minimize driver confusion, especially for visitors to the city. And they estimate that the delay to those of us who regularly drive that route will be three to seven seconds.

•    The University will secure the funds necessary to complete the road improvements for this project currently estimated at $1.7 million, with no funding expected from the City of Winchester.

•    As a gesture of good faith toward that end, Shenandoah University has already set aside $500,000 for the project. This is the half a million dollars that our Board chair, Jim Vickers, referred to in a recent interview. This sum is a beginning and not a ceiling. SU is willing to take responsibility for raising the remainder of the funds necessary for the project.

•    The Economic Development Analysis & Master Plan of the Economic Development Authority lists an “Entry Corridor Improvement Program” as an important tactic to “Improve the Image of the City.” This project addresses that need for the Route 50 entry corridor. Both citizens and visitors alike will be greeted by a less confusing and more beautiful entrance to the city, with all of the appropriate signage to direct them to the historic district.

•    Finally, the University and the businesses immediately adjacent to it are in a mutually-sustainable position. Our students and their parents rely heavily on Sheetz and the Hampton Inn, and we have faculty and staff who patronize Beltone. As they thrive, the University thrives. We are confident that the Millwood improvements can be designed in a way that is beneficial to the local businesses – and we intend to continue to be a good neighbor to these businesses.
Over the last three decades, Shenandoah University has heavily invested time and resources in historic Winchester. The results include:

•    A $1 million renovation of the former John Kerr School building. Each year, more than 1,500 local residents take music, dance and art classes in this historic building.

•    Locating three of our academic programs – physical therapy, occupational therapy and education – downtown.

•    The purchase and renovation of the former Solenberger Hardware building on the Loudoun Street Mall for student apartments and a commercial space. In addition to bringing new revenue to downtown merchants, this property will remain on the City’s tax rolls.

•    The relocation of University staff members to the Feltner Building, on the Loudoun Street Mall, and the opening to the public of the Feltner Museum on a weekly basis, again, bringing activity and revenue to the City’s historic center.

If the re-location of that short stretch of Millwood Avenue were going to hurt the businesses or citizens of downtown Winchester, it would have the same negative impact on Shenandoah’s current and future operations downtown!

Instead, I believe that the re-location of Millwood will serve both the University and the Winchester community well.

If we can create a beautiful Route 50 entrance to Winchester, a nice entrance to the University that will reflect positively on the City, assure safer vehicular travel on the same number of lanes, direct traffic more clearly to the downtown – all without having the Winchester government shoulder the financial costs nor the citizens suffer with more than a seven second traffic delay – then isn’t that a win-win?
Isn’t that the kind of end goal toward which City-University partnerships are supposed to strive?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where are the traffic study numbers?

How much traffic already???

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