I’m a map geek.
As a kid, I used to spend hours studying road maps. I also drew them. I would invent entire cities by carefully drawing lines on paper representing streets, roads, and other infrastructure.
I’m still kind of weird that way.
Naturally, when I moved to Winchester, I spent a lot of time poring over the modern equivalent of the road atlas — Google maps.
One of the first things I noticed about Winchester is how disconnected its neighborhoods are.
One notable example is Fulton Road. Have you ever noticed that this street has two disconnected sections? I have no idea how that came about. Connecting — or re-connecting — these two disjointed road segments is on a list of planned improvements.
Whatever the circumstances of its origin, I see Fulton Road’s disconnected nature as a metaphor for the problem of getting around in Winchester.
Once you get off the main roads, making your way across town can be daunting, using only city streets.
My subdivision is the last one as you head west out of town on McClure Road. The lots in it are contiguous with those in both Stoneybrook and Scottish Highlands. But there are no connecting streets to those neighborhoods.
My backyard is a stone’s throw from one in Scottish Highlands. But to drive or walk that route involves traveling over two miles.
My wife and I love to walk about the neighborhood. But to get beyond our small subdivision, we must walk a short distance along busy McClure — where there is no sidewalk or adequate shoulder — to Stoneybrook.
Other parts of town are more challenging to navigate than they should be, simply because there aren’t enough interconnecting streets.
This isn’t an issue unique to Winchester.
In the post-World War II building boom that created American suburbia, city planners abandoned the old grid pattern of neighborhood development in favor of a system of isolated subdivisions, retail centers and industrial areas, accessible by “collector” streets and “arterial” roads.
The result has been disastrous.
Traffic keeps getting worse on the busy connectors and arterials. We keep adding more lanes and more roads, but it seems there are never enough.
Meanwhile, it is nearly impossible to safely navigate modern American cities and towns on foot or by other means other than the automobile.
We waste a lot of gasoline driving all those extra miles to get in and out of island subdivisions and shopping centers.
But this is about Winchester. What could we do to improve the state of our disconnected and poorly-connected neighborhoods?
A few proposed or approved road projects will help, including the aforementioned Fulton Road connector, which would add another badly-needed route between the western bypass and downtown.
Another project that is moving forward is the Seventh Street extension, which will provide access to North Main Street and Interstate 64 for industries in that area. This provides a needed connector and eliminates heavy truck traffic on the narrow streets of that area.
Another major project on the drawing board is the eastern bypass extension — Veteran’s Memorial Parkway — to Boonesboro Road. I’m not a big fan of this project.
Slated to cost $36 million, the project would extend a road that is very lightly-traveled, from my observations. That amount of money could go a long way to alleviate other traffic snarls around town.
Something desperately needs to be done about the corner of Carol Road and Lexington Avenue. Carol Road is home to several restaurants and the busy Ale‑8 plant, and that intersection is the only access those businesses have. There is no traffic light, presumably because the intersection is too close to the one at Bypass Road.
Anyone who has ever tried to turn left from Carol onto Lexington knows what a dangerous and frustrating experience this can be.
One solution would be to realign Carol to intersect Lexington across from Oxford Drive and install a traffic light.
Another problem is the congestion on Bypass Road during busy times of the day. We could always add more lanes, but as we’ve seen, that is only a temporary solution — and not a very good one at that.
A much better fix would be to provide more connectivity to I‑64 from she scattered neighborhoods west of the bypass.
The Map Geek has a lot of other ideas. Perhaps I’ll share some more in a later column if anyone is interested.
This article appeared in The Winchester Sun on October 2, 2020.