RICHMOND, Va. –
The Virginia Capital Trail has a destination and a deadline.
It’s on to Richmond by mid-2014. That’s the projected completion date for the 52-mile paved recreational trail from Virginia’s colonial capital in Williamsburg to its current capital in Richmond.
Not a moment too soon for Richmond, which already is feeling the pressure of preparing for the arrival of close to half a million visitors and millions of eyes from around the globe with the UCI World Road Cycling Championships in 2015.
With the dedication of a 13.5-mile leg between Charles City Courthouse and the Chickahominy River this Thursday, the Capital Trail will now begin its march over the last 22 miles to Richmond.
When it reaches the Great Shiplock Park at Chapel Island, the trail will complete a crucial link in an evolving network of trails and shared travel lanes in a city trying to define itself as pedestrian and cycling friendly for an international audience.
“The sense is, it will get done,” said Tim Miller, chief operating officer for Richmond 2015 and a member of the Virginia Capital Trail Foundation board of directors.
The momentum was evident on May 12, when more than 2,200 people climbed on bicycles in Richmond and Williamsburg for the Cap2Cap, a series of rides to raise funds for the Capital Trail and awareness of cycling’s potential in the region. The participation represented a 22 percent increase from a year ago.
“The cycling culture around Richmond and Williamsburg has grown significantly in one year,” said Beth Weisbrod, executive director of the Capital Trail foundation.
For Richmond, the 2015 championships present an opportunity to make lasting changes in how the city operates, the way people commute to work and spend leisure time, and how the city is viewed by people who are looking for what cycling enthusiast Champe Burnley calls “the kind of community that young movers and shakers want to live in.”
“You just don’t get an advertisement that shows off the city like this,” said Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation. “This is our date with Carnegie Hall.”
The cycling championships are expected to generate an economic boon estimated at $135 million in Virginia, including $86 million in the city alone. More than 450,000 spectators are expected in Richmond over the nine-day event, which will be broadcast around the world to millions of cycling enthusiasts.
But hosting the championships also poses a monumental challenge to Richmond, which
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