Often I hear reminisces about how bucolic a drive along some local roads was before they were widened to four or five lanes. How the trees hung over the roads. How it gave you that real hometown feel. And then came “The Invasion of the Beauty Snatchers” – concrete and asphalt.
I remember the first time I drove through Chester how quaint it was, (I’m sure it was the same in Meadowdale and Ettrick) but as I craned my neck to see each of the white clapboard-sided houses I almost tailgated a line of cars queued at West Hundred and Harrowgate roads.
The traffic was on the heavy side and yet the balance of nature and the small town atmosphere convinced me to move to Chester. About six months later, the beauty snatchers arrived. It was almost like you could hear them growing on the lawns along Route 10. Bulldozers waiting for the takeover.
As Linda, my daughter, Marly, and I left BowTie’s Criterion Cinemas Saturday evening, we began reminiscing about the now gone Chester Cinema and debated how many theatres were in the building. I said four but I think Marly won the deliberation with six. Regal sold their building and land a half-dozen years ago, but as we miss the two lane byways of this end of the county, I think we miss our own cinema, as well.
Now those who live southeast of the Chesterfield Mountains with their towering peaks and misty valleys, the boundary of economic disparity, must travel to Richmond, over the mountains to Hull Street, Midlothian or take Interstate 95 to Southpark.
But I have my own solution. I go to Target, on the site of the old Chester Cinema, buy a drink and some popcorn, find a chair on display and drag it to the electronics department. There I sit in front of a 90-inch TV and watch the trailers. I fall asleep in the same amount of time it takes me to start snoring as if I paid $10 X two for a movie and snack at any other movie house.
I guess we have to let go for the sake of progress, but can we somehow avoid the encroaching pinnacle of more traffic, at least on West Hundred Road, which could take front yards and houses, to allow for more of Henry Ford’s dream realized?
About six years ago there arose a solution, at least for Chester, but the excesses of war, the housing market and financial crash that caused the downfall of our economy put that solution on hold or killed it all together.
The solution to our current and future traffic problems lay in Branners Station, a 1,614-acre site with 4,868 lots. According to DesignForum, planners who designed Branners, a proposed pedestrian-oriented community with neo-traditional areas; “The plan’s main feature was a major greenway that connects the south end of the property with the north end and eventually to Route 288. Located along the greenway were key destination points including the two schools, the regional and the local village sites, a County recreation park, the existing lake and the two community center/parks. All neighborhoods will be connected and would have trails that link them to the greenway.” Connecting the development to Interstate 95 would anchor the southern side of the community with a connection to Route 288 going north.
Branners would have been like a Brandermill or Woodlake on steroids. The connection to Route 288 would have been the key to lessoning the traffic along West Hundred Road in Chester. The southern route east to Interstate 95 would have also helped relieve traffic on West Hundred as well.
So now, the cut-through is the most popular way to get to where you’re going and stay out of heavy traffic. This includes my street, which was never meant as a collector road and is posted at 25 mph. A vehicle’s average speed is more likely to be 35 to 45 mph. Dozens of children crossing the street in a turnover neighborhood like ours - older families have moved out and now younger families have taken their place.
Farther west on Chester Road, the area has become as popular as Cogbill Road and Meadowdale Boulevard have in North Chesterfield. Centralia Road to Chalkley Road to Walmart and the return trip to Centralia are popular and are causing dangerous situations for children getting on and off buses. It seems people have forgotten or completely ignore the rules of a bus’s flashing lights and extended stop sign, especially on a road used a major cut-through like Chalkley.
Lower speed limits do very little unless you put high fines connected to speeding tickets. Police patrol is difficult with a short-handed police department. Keeping these speeding vehicles that have no regard for speed limits, and the rules of the road (especially some motor cyclists.) will eventually cause dire consequences.
Quaint tree-lined roads are gone in many places, replaced by high-traffic rivers of concrete and asphalt. Opportunities for a return to the past is nil, but stopping a continuation of another widening is possible. As my friend said, “Move to Moseley and if that gets bad, Powhatan is the next stop.” But where do we go from there – Oregon?
Pay attention – “The Invasion of the Beauty Snatchers” is at hand.