Peppers Ferry push squeezes homes
CHRISTIANSBURG – To make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs. In that vein, a building crew is having to slice and dice several residential front yards this winter for the completion of the Virginia 114 widening on the west side of the town.
Arneda Elmore knows a heavy equipment blade is due soon at her address. Hers is among a handful of households losing the forward portion of their front yards to expand 114 (Peppers Ferry Road) to four lanes. The multi-year construction project, which upgraded three-fourths of a mile of Virginia 114 already, is progressing west toward Franklin Road past the house Elmore has occupied since 1976.
The road will expand from a width of 48 feet to about 84 feet to incorporate two new traffic lanes, bike lanes, sidewalks and gutter. Elmore sees the plusses. She’ll be able to take a walk on a sidewalk, for instance. But by the time it’s over, Elmore’s already small front yard will be smaller. Other casualties include a tulip tree, two Alberta spruces, a plum and a large lilac. That’s in addition to various cuts for utility relocation.
It’s still not precisely clear how close traffic, now about 40 feet from the front door, will come, but she is fearing a significant loss. Ricky Keith, the project manager at the Virginia Department of Conservation, said her yard will shrink, but only by about six feet.
“We’re not happy, but what can you do about it?” Elmore said.
The big question that can’t be answered until the job is done in November 2014: Will she be able to hear the television in the living room?
Several years ago, the state bought needed, narrow swaths of private land several years ago to hold the wider thoroughfare, Keith said.
Around that time, Montgomery County implemented a corresponding drop in property values as the affected parcels gave up fraction of their size and value, assessor Tom Bland said.
Now the construction impacts are setting in. Elmore and her husband John have considered moving and listed the house last fall, though crews knocked down the real estate sign.
She saw the survey stakes for the utility easement just off the front porch, the bulldozers digging in nearby, and one day turned to her husband in dread: “Just call ‘em and tell them to buy the silly place,” she said.
But she expects her home will remain livable, even if a price reduction doesn’t result in a sale. The VirginiaDepartment of Transportation did not offer to buy the 2,700 square foot dwelling, which sits beside the couple’s storage-unit rental business.
On the plus side, Elmore expects to appreciate the safety and capacity improvements the project will bring to the highway, which carried an estimated 17,000 vehicles a day in 2011, up 4,000 from five years earlier.
A few years back, while waiting in traffic to turn left into her driveway, Elmore was rear-ended, she said. When she stepped from the car, she had what she called “a light heart attack” attributable to the stress of the crash. The new road will consist of two traffic lanes in each direction and a center turn lane.
The Elmores worked with the state to arrange for a right turn lane into their business, which will be put in at the same time.
Peppers Ferry Road resident Annice Gilmore is another affected homeowner who, while regretting the loss of green space, sees upsides.
“It will be nice to have a wider road and street lights,” she said.
Gilmore, 90, who has lived on the street for 50 years, said the new Peppers Ferry Road is very different from times past.
“I remember when it was just a one-lane dirt lane,” she said, explaining two cars would “just squeeze by.”
The Roanoke Times | 381-1661