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Drivers voice frustrations over lengthy construction on Forest Hill

For nearly three years the city has been trying to improve safety along Forest Hill Ave by...
For nearly three years the city has been trying to improve safety along Forest Hill Ave by going from a four-lane roadway to a divided four-lane roadway with a landscaped median, the installation of new sidewalks as well as bike lanes and lights, but the Department of Public Works says the pandemic slowed some of the progress.(NBC12)
Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 11:29 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Whether it’s during rush hour or on his way to the shopping centers, city resident Dexter Brown says driving through the construction zone on Forest Hill Avenue has been a living nightmare for more than a year.

“It’s a disaster, it’s a mess, it’s been a tremendous inconvenience,” Brown said. “It’s been a tremendous inconvenience.”

For shoppers like John James, the feeling is mutual.

“It’s a pain in the butt,” James said. “If I’m just trying to get to the store, that takes me normally about two minutes. It’s now going to take me an extra 30 minutes just to figure that out; now I don’t want to come out.”

From the delays to traffic jams and seemingly never-ending construction, many drivers are asking what the hold-up is on Forest Hill?

“How can one way take you like nine months just to fix?” James asked.

“It’s like they just can’t get it done, and I don’t get it,” Brown said.

NBC12 reached out to Lamont Benjamin, the Capital Projects Administrator for the Richmond Department of Public Works. Benjamin says for nearly three years, the city has been trying to improve safety along Forest Hill Avenue by going from a four-lane roadway to a divided four-lane roadway with a landscaped median, the installation of new sidewalks as well as bike lanes and lights.

But Benjamin says the pandemic slowed some of the progress.

“There have been some scheduling issues with some of the utility companies taking longer to relocate some of their lines during the construction of the project which has created a lot of delays,” he said.

In addition, Benjamin says the Forest Hill Capital Improvement Project isn’t the only project happening on the busy roadway, causing delays and traffic jams.

A project just to the west of the road improvements is for an emergency replacement sewer line happening on the 7000 block of Forest Hill Avenue.

The Department of Public Utilities says the work will require that the eastbound traffic lanes of Forest Hill Avenue be closed between Cherokee Road and Gravel Hill Road. Both eastbound and westbound lanes of Forest Hill Avenue traffic will share the use of westbound lanes for the duration of the project. Access to businesses on Forest Hill Avenue will remain open during construction.

They add that the detour will remain in place permanently until project completion.

DPU said the failed sewer line was worse than they realized once they began replacement on May 25, but DPU expects the project will be complete sometime in July.

As for the road improvements, Benjamin says it could take another six months before it’s complete.

“We do anticipate all the work being complete before the end of the year,” Benjamin said, “Hopefully, we have favorable weather that will keep everything on track and on schedule.”

A project Brown hopes the city finishes first.

“Just get it done, just get it over with,” Brown said.

For more information about the Forest Hill, Capital Improvement Project click HERE.

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