With 145 days to go before the start of the UCI Road World Championships, Richmond has begun implementing its plan to make sure the city is ready for the cyclists and the crowds.
Preparations have been underway for almost four years, but with just under five months to go before the races begin, the city is publicly revealing the scope — and cost — of the work that must be done in coming months.
The projects are far-ranging, from paving roads and installing gateway signs to planting trees and finalizing security arrangements. In all, the city pledged $3.5 million in in-kind support, in addition to $2 million in cash, to bring the Worlds here.
“There’s a definite benefit in what we’ve been doing, because it all ties to the overall beautification of the city,” Deputy Chief John Buturla of the Richmond Police Department said Thursday.
The road world championships, one of professional cycling’s premiere events, is expected to draw about 450,000 spectators over nine days in September. The event is expected to create $158.1 million in economic impact for the state, with visitors spending $129.2 million in the region during the event.
An estimated 300 million people worldwide are expected to watch the racing on television.
Among the most pressing issues for the city is getting streets and roads ready. So far, about 24 miles of paving along the race route has been completed at a cost of about $1.6 million. Some of that work has been underway for the past couple of years as organizers prepared for the collegiate championships last year.
An additional 13 miles will be completed before the racing begins. For that work, $1 million has been budgeted.
The city said last week that the work should be complete by Aug. 30.
One venture of particular importance is a cobblestone restoration project of the 23rd Street hill, one of the steepest and toughest climbs of the course. Organizers and professionals who’ve ridden 23rd Street say the hill, which even experienced riders have a tough time climbing, will play a pivotal role in next year’s races.
The hill runs alongside Bellevue Elementary School, which plans to integrate different facets of cycling into the curriculum, including physical education and reading programs.
Buturla said work on the 23rd Street hill is an example of “how we’re leveraging the race to do great improvements along the course.”
The city also will restore the cobble along Franklin Street and convert it into a two-way street.
Other work being done in preparation for the race includes repairing and upgrading 7.5 miles of sidewalk, restoring and replacing 630 street signs on the course, marking with crosswalks 83 intersections on the course.
“A walkable city is key, and we’re anticipating those 450,000 people over nine days visiting our city,” Buturla said. “We want them to be able to walk through the city.”
In addition to the paving, the city is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation on projects at several gateway intersections. The work includes landscaping and a gateway sign into Richmond. The large sign will feature the city’s name in large block letters.
“It’s going to be the welcome, the welcome coming into the city,” Buturla said. “Pretty dramatic and it’s pretty impressive.”
Cost for the gateway project is $2.6 million, with the city putting in $580,000.
Along with the street work, there is a beautification program in the works. Part of that effort is the 3rd and 5th Street Gateway Beautification project, which gets underway Tuesday.
Lucy Meade, director of marketing and development at Venture Richmond, said the project is a partnership between her organization, Maymont and the city. The project includes planting in a median at the bottom of the Interstate 95 exit ramp on Third Street.
Phase 1, which begins Tuesday, includes the planting of 79 plants in the medians. Phase 2 will add 42 planters to three blocks between Third Street and 45 planters to two blocks of Fifth Street.
“It will be beautiful with plants that will bloom all summer,” Meade said.
As for the city, it plans to plant 147 trees along the route.
The efforts announced last week did not only deal with work to spruce up the city.
Richmond officials spoke about sustainability and tourism. They also discussed how permitting and licensing would be used to make sure construction work doesn’t get in the way of the racing or disrupt the event in any way.
One thing the city is doing is setting up end dates for construction work in and around the race course.
Buturla said there will be specific work restrictions in place leading up to the world championships and while the event is ongoing.
“We’re going to adhere to (restrictions) just to ensure that none of the construction, or anything going on, will interfere in any way with the experience that our athletes and our guests will be experiencing,” he said.
The city also plans to improve its 311 telephone service to respond better to residents calling with questions and issues regarding the championships.
Richmond 2015, the organization charged with putting on the event, said it’s happy with the city’s progress.
Paul Shanks, director of communications and digital marketing for the organization, said it takes disparate groups working toward a common goal to put on a successful event of the size and scope of Worlds.
It’s a “big list and takes the entire community,” he said.
Copyright Richmond-Times Dispatch. Used by Permission.