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In Town of Halifax, a new downtown emerges

While Halifax Police Department continues its education campaign on pedestrian safety and enforcement in the Town of Halifax, work on the new crosswalk installation, highway repaving and signage installation is wrapping up the town’s revitalization project that has been ongoing for over a decade now.

The aim of the comprehensive revitalization project to improve downtown Halifax was to provide an attractive pedestrian friendly environment for visitors and residents while enhancing the area’s rich history.

Town Manager Carl Espy believes as the final touches are being placed on the downtown revitalization project, the town’s goal now has been achieved.

Initial planning got underway in 2001, and it was 2002 when the county was awarded a Community Development Planning Grant to officially begin the revitalization project by developing a master plan to guide improvements.

LandMark Design Group, Inc., completed the downtown revitalization master plan in March 2003 through a planning grant funded by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Preparing the plan with much public input were staff of the town and county along with elected officials, the Halifax Village Business Association, an active downtown improvement committee, Southside Planning District Commission, Virginia Department of Transportation and consultant facilitators.

“The plan was intended to serve as a vision for the future of downtown Halifax,” Espy said, “and as guidance for phased funding, design and improvements to both the public infrastructure, parking and pedestrian access for business and public facilities.”

Preliminary engineering and design for Phase I of the project that included the Main Street core area was funded with a combination of TEA-21 and Community Development Block Grants.

The second phase of the project involved the Main Street core area and plaza pedestrian areas including the economic hub of downtown Halifax -- Main Street from the intersection of Houston Street to the intersection of Cemetery Street.

Espy said early on in the project town and county leaders recognized dangerous pedestrian conditions existed throughout the business area as the town had no marked pedestrian crosswalks.

After a person died as a result of a pedestrian crosswalk accident in the town, Espy said the need to make these improvements took on a new sense of urgency.

Because the paved roadway was wider than necessary for the traffic, Espy said traffic tends to travel at higher speeds than desired making crossing the street difficult and dangerous at times.

It became the town’s goal to have better marked pedestrian crosswalks at key locations to improve safety.

Prior to the renovations, the town manager said the sidewalks along the town’s business area also were “extremely deteriorated and dangerous.” 

In addition to placing crosswalks at key crossovers to clearly define pedestrian crossings, renovation plans called for the addition of pedestrian scale lighting on both sides of the street to enhance safety and aesthetic value.

Utility poles located in walkways also made it difficult for pedestrians, especially handicapped individuals, to access sites safely in the downtown.

Plans called for the removal and relocation of all overhead utility wires and poles, many of which obscured the view of historic buildings and sites, as part of Phase II.

That part of the project, which was completed last year, was funded by a $770,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Donations for local groups also provided over $25,000 in project costs for the street lighting that has brightened the town’s downtown landscape.

As the extensive revitalization project draws to a close, only a few minor finishing touches remain, Espy said.

VDOT crews most recently have been installing new pedestrian crosswalk signs at the existing crosswalks and plan to address potential new crosswalk areas on North Main Street and South Main Street in the near future. 

The Halifax Police Department has circulated brochures to better inform pedestrians and motorists on crosswalk safety and how monitoring and enforcement in accordance with the Code of Virginia will be conducted. 

And next week VDOT crews plan to install two-hour parking (between 8 a.m.-5 p.m.) signs downtown between Houston Street and Cemetery Street as part of the last leg of the project, Espy said.

For more information on Halifax’s downtown revitalization project, contact Espy at 434-476-2343.