Jamestown 2007 preparations: Planning for the BIG ONE

Jamestown (Jamestown, Virginia)TravelTransportationTourism and LeisureVehiclesRoad Transportation

If all goes as planned, the Jamestown 2007 commemoration should draw thousands of extra visitors to the region before, during and after the main events. But how will all of these visitors get to Jamestown?

So far, the answer has been the widening of one major road, the addition of bus, shuttle and ferry services and new parking spots. Visitors driving to the state also will get a chance to stretch their legs at improved rest stops.

The most difficult roadblock will be in May 2007, America's Anniversary Weekend, when the president is expected to make an appearance at the park being created for the events. Organizers expect 20,000 people to show up on that Sunday, with as many as 10,000 coming on Friday and perhaps 14,000 on Saturday.

Getting the transportation aspect of the weekend right is crucial, said Ross Richardson, director of marketing communications for Jamestown 2007. Event organizers want people to remember the pageantry -- not how they couldn't get to it.

"If things go wrong, then that will be the thing that they talk about," Richardson said. "That's the challenge we're faced with."

Jamestown Road and the Colonial Parkway are the only ways into the state-run Jamestown Settlement and Historic Jamestowne, which is operated by APVA Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. So parking will be limited that weekend to workers and dignitaries.

"Car access to the Jamestown sites will be extremely limited," Richardson said. "Tourists will not be able to reach the Jamestown sites by car."

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission has set aside $700,000 to provide bus and ferry service and parking on the weekend. That money is contingent upon, and likely will be matched by, the Virginia Department of Transportation to bring the total to $1.4 million.

Jamestown 2007's transportation committee will use the money to lease an undetermined number of buses to bring in visitors from Williamsburg-area hotels.

"Certainly, we'll need the most buses for Sunday, and that number will probably be over 100," said Don Vary, Jamestown 2007's transportation consultant.

Organizers plan to bus people to Jamestown after parking at remote locations with 5,000 to 10,000 parking spots. Some potential areas now include Cheatham Annex, Eastern State Hospital and Busch Gardens.

Vary is also looking at how to arrange parking for Historic Triangle residents closer to the event. Besides the remote sites, planners hope to have buses running along Richmond Road and Bypass Road to pick up people from these hotel-packed areas.

The VDOT-operated Jamestown-Scotland Ferry provides a free ride to the sites, but requires people to bring their car. Jamestown 2007 organizers are hoping to get an additional ferry and take people over on buses from Surry County. A separate ferry would be available for local vehicles.

"We would like to have as much ferry service as possible," said Vary.

Parking is tight at the two sites. The settlement recently doubled its parking lot expansion to a little more than 500 spaces. With a new visitor's center taking away spots, Historic Jamestowne has 150 spaces and often spills off onto the grass along the road leading to the site.

Planning for the Anniversary Weekend isn't the only piece of the puzzle. VDOT has embarked on a few major projects that needed to be done anyway, but were scheduled to be done by the time motorists flock to the state in 2007.

"That's certainly one of the reasons we wanted to focus on them right now," said Tiffany Elliott, spokeswoman for VDOT.

The biggest individual road plan directly related to the commemoration is the $31.8 million Route 199 project. The four-part job has consistently run ahead of schedule and is slated to be complete by November -- two months ahead of schedule.

A group of local contractors called the Jamestown 2007 Corridor Constructors, LLC finished relocating Route 359 at the Jamestown Settlement in July 2004, nearly two months before the original deadline.

The consortium also widened Route 199 to four lanes from Route 60 to the Colonial Parkway last November -- five months ahead of schedule. Now the contractors are widening Route 199 from Henry Street to Brookwood Drive, which is right before the Jamestown Road intersection, which has also received some upgrades.

VDOT also is spending $22 million to repair 16 miles of Jefferson Avenue to Camp Peary. The repairs started last month and will continue through May 2007. During the same period, another $18.7 million will fund eight miles of repairs on I-64 from Laburnum Avenue to New Kent County.

"It's a general overhaul that will add 10 years to the interstate and make the drive more smooth for people to come to town," said Elliott.

Part of the park service's $33 million in spending for Jamestown 2007 has gone into a shuttle service now goes between the Jamestown sites, Yorktown and Williamsburg. The $4 million from the park service cover the operating costs through 2007.

Additionally, a new $8 million transportation area along the Colonial Parkway that will include 150 parking spaces will mitigate traffic to the sites. The hub, which is scheduled to be under construction next week and done by spring 2006, will become a new stopping point for the shuttle.

"It will lower the amount of vehicle traffic that goes to the historic site," said Mike Litterst, a park service spokesman.

To combat a problem of decreasing numbers of tourists bouncing between Virginia Beach and the Historic Triangle because of traffic jams, VDOT launched a new summer bus service this month. The free service should help take Virginia Beach visitors to Jamestown in 2007, keeping the cars away.

Besides easing the way to the Jamestown sites, some more aesthetic changes are in store. Tourism leaders and visitors to the state have long complained that Virginia's rest areas are a disgrace, but it took Jamestown 2007 to spur action.

The state spent $7.1 million on a huge new rest stop in New Kent County in 2003. The General Assembly approved $20 million this year to improve the rest stops along interstates 64 and 95 because these routes will be used by travelers to Jamestown.

About $17 million of the new money will rebuild three rest stops next year: along I-64 westbound in New Kent County, I-95 southbound in Fredericksburg and I-95 northbound in Caroline County. The other $3 million will go toward renovating the rest of the state's rest areas. *

JAMESTOWN-RELATED TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS

* $1.4 million New parking spots, ferry and bus service
* $31.8 million Route 199 project
* $22 million Jefferson Avenue repairs
* $18.7 million I-64 repairs
* $4 million Shuttle service for Historic Triangle
* $8 million Transportation Hub on Colonial Parkway
* $7.1 million New Kent County rest stop
* $20 million Repairing and replacing rest stops

JAMESTOWN 2007

20,000
The number of visitors expected on the Sunday of Anniversary Weekend, May 2007.

5,000 -10,000
The number of parking spaces organizers plan to have at remote locations

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