UPDATE: The Parkway will be effectively closed beginning Aug. 14 between Williamsburg and Yorktown.
Directions from Williamsburg: Type into GPS the words York River Yacht Haven. Drive 20 minutes on Route 143 or I-64 to Yorktown. Cross the Coleman Bridge over York River, pay $2 toll. Pick up the local map as shown below: Right at first light (BP) onto Lafayette Heights. Quick left onto Greate Road. Quick right onto Terrapin Cove Road. Proceed half a mile down straightaway. Right onto York Haven Road. Take the curve left, past boatyard into parking lot. Park at the pool. Lost? Call 757 876-8654.
Thousands of commuters and other motorists will lose daily access to the Colonial Parkway as a three-year reconstruction will force time-consuming detours. Based on a presentation this week under Colonial National Historic Park, drivers will no longer be able to use the parkway for shortcuts through Williamsburg or as a beautiful trip to and from work.
A 40-minute presentation by Wagman JMT design build team was SRO at the Quarterpath Rec Center as more than 100 people packed their way in for the briefing – which was followed by a repeat presentation. Jerry Whitlock of Wagman outlined how the parkway will be rebuilt for $123 million from the Williamsburg tunnel to Yorktown. The 10-mile eastern leg will cost $12.3 million a mile. The Jamestown leg will remain intact and accessible. The $123 million price tag is separate from the current shoreline project along the York River, which costs $2o million.
Work will proceed this summer in three phases that won’t overlap but will block thru traffic for three years.The phases are broken into five segments labeled A through G lasting a year or more each, effectively rendering the eastern leg impassable. (Curiously, segments B and C are omitted.) Large orange and white barricades will be erected to detour drivers. Work should wrap up in June 2026 in time for the 250th anniversary of the nation on July 4. Whitlock said that’s a hard stop, enforced by a performance bond.
The last major rehab came in 1992, when business interests forced the Park Service to keep the parkway open during construction. This time, officials rejected a constant opening as impractical for cost and time.
What Whitlock termed “the most unique parkway in America” will be restored to its original look. It dates from the 1930s to Yorktown and the 1950s to Jamestown. The iconic 3-lane slabs will be torn up and replaced to look identical. One woman challenged the configuration of the 10-foot-wide slabs. “Is the parkway 1-1/2 lanes or 3 lanes? Because I nearly got run off the road the other day because there’s no center line.” Whitlock said the road will remain 3 lanes.
The project is billed as a “rehabilitation” to restore the original 1930s work. Eleven bridges will be repaired and repaved, and the iconic tunnel under the Historic Area will be redone as well. Stormwater drainage will be improved by “upsizing of culverts and armoring of drainage channels,” according to a presentation slide.
Detours will send drivers out onto local streets for more than a year at a time.
In response to questions, there will be no bike lanes added even though biking has become wildly popular in the past 50 years. “We can’t undo or change what’s out there now,” he said.
And when questioned about all the fallen trees in the adjacent woods along the parkway, Whitlock said the corridor will be “trimmed up from a certain width from the road,” but as for farther inland, “we are not in the tree-removal business.”
Others questioned the enforcement of “No Commercial Traffic” signs on the parkway, but Whitlock referred them to the Park Service for response. The parkways has become increasingly busy from commuters and trucks avoiding Interstate 64.
Exit ramps will be reconstructed as well, but ambiguity surrounds the short leg of South Henry Street as it dips below Route 199 to the entrance of Kingspoint subdivision. That stretch is a VDOT road, not part of the parkway. One woman noted that stoplight now favors 199 traffic and suggested an adjustment to handle more traffic during the detours.
Whitlock said considerable research has gone into replicating the aggregate slabs, only better. He also said potholes are hard to fix because it’s difficult to match the aggregate, so it’s better to preclude them altogether with better construction in the first place. The slabs will be 7 to 9 inches thick, “with a really good base of 6 inches of soil cement, similar to what we just put under I-95 near Fredericksburg.”
A young couple from suburban Richmond took an anniversary cruise on the York under light winds after more than a week of rainouts. It was a precious relief and we zoomed along while heeling 10-15 degrees.
Christina Paris works for John Deere. She agreed with me that the company slogan is perhaps the best in American business. “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” is precise, literate, visual and organic. The closest second is “Johnny on the Spot.”
Kyle Paris works as a mechanic for a Toyota-Mercedes Benz dealership. In conversation, he was cheerfully full of car talk. He explained why my Yanmar engine blew up from dieseling 15 years ago. “Diesels will burn anything – cooking oil, gasoline and oil. If too much oil gets in the piston, the thing explodes. That’s one reason not to overfill the oil in the first place.” Mine is at 95% full. “I saw a training video about dieseling where they tried to plug the air hole with a phone book and it tore a hole right through it. So don’t even think about using your hand. Just stand back and let it blow out.”
I asked him if I could realistically push my Ford Escape beyond its current 187,000 miles to 200,000 or 300,000. “200 yes, but unlikely for 300. Even though you service it regularly, the parts just wear out over time. Toyota found two gasoline pickup trucks that made it to a million miles. They gave one guy a new truck and put his in a museum. The other guy wouldn’t give it up and presumably is still driving around. But the odometer won’t go past 999,999.”
As for e-cars, Kyle preferred the Prius to the Tesla. “They worked too hard to get the Tesla out onto the market without taking care of the glitches first.” A Prius is safer too for technicians. “It runs on a 12-volt battery vs. 700 volts for Tesla. The big orange wire underneath the car is orange for a reason: Don’t cut that.”
He freely admitted watching YouTube for repairs to other models. Christina joked, “Kyle is YouTube-certified. He has the patch to prove it.”
In the afternoon, a family from Boston got to see the Coleman Bridge open as the USNS Zeus lumbered down the York from Cheatham Annex Navy base. It’s a Navy support ship that crisscrosses the Atlantic to lay up to 1,000 miles of intel cable on the ocean floor to spy on Russian subs. I notified the bridge by radio that I was heading to the north side of the river for clear passage. The bridge responded with a cryptic “Okay” but kept coming straight for us. Soon we were out of range as the Zeus sped by. Hardly a close call, but the ship was supposed to use the south channel instead of proceeding directly down the middle of the York.
Let’s Go Sail
Check rates and pick a day for a sailboat charter. Scroll down reviews on Trip Advisor. Go back to the home page of Williamsburg Charter Sails.
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Then again, women enjoy sailing today more than ever, and particularly a romantic cruise. Couples get to enjoy a romantic getaway as they sit up on the bow for privacy. Let’s Go Sail provides professional photos for free. First-time or skilled mariners are welcome to sail a modern-32-foot sailboat in a unique setting of wildlife and Fall foliage or Spring bloom. It makes for an extraordinary anniversary idea.
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