Editorial: What might have been
An upriver crossing of the York River is a dream that began in the 1980s, but was laid to rest with widening of the Coleman Bridge in 1996. It took about 30 years of talk, in fact, to get the Coleman Bridge, which opened in 1952. The first "assured" bridge crossing was proposed in the 1920s.
The upriver crossing idea has been resurrected and a feasibility study through a private-public partnership has received Gloucester County permission to proceed.
Perhaps in a few decades the time will be right for a river crossing that spans from upper Gloucester to near Williamsburg. Or perhaps not. People are free to dream.
They have dreamed and thought about transportation improvements, in fact, for centuries. The past 100 years have brought out many ideas; had come about, we would be living in counties with a very different aspect. Here are a few of those dreams that evaporated with the morning mist:
A bridge over the River East?
1906: A few residents proposed a bridge over the East River in Mathews, crossing from Tick Neck in the Foster area and taking travelers through the Glebe into Mathews Court House. It would spare travelers (on foot and horseback … this was pre-automobile) a large part of the muddy slog on the county roads.
The Chesapeake railroad?
1912: Talk began of a railroad to run through Gloucester and possibly Mathews too, to move goods from trains into the steamers that landed at local wharves, and vice-versa. The railroad talk lasted a few years and was revived in the 1920s.
Another Yorktown ferry?
1950: Some businessmen, watching the Coleman Bridge go up, thought of another use for the ferryboats that would soon be extinct. They proposed a ferry line from Yorktown to Cape Charles.
The Great Eastern Bypass
1950: Thomas Calhoun Walker, better known in Gloucester for building schools and advocating land ownership, looked at congestion on Main Street. He offered to donate land to the county so Lewis Avenue could be extended to Crab Thicket Road, in effect providing an eastern bypass to the Edgehill intersection.
Coming ashore here...a bridge-tunnel. Not.
1957: In the scheme that would have had great impact on our landscape, the Mathews County Board of Supervisors proposed the western end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel come ashore somewhere in the county.
No to wider roads!
1977: Dreaming of bad things that might come, Mathews supervisors turned down a state plan to increase the county’s portion of Route 14 from two lanes to four: a reversal of the pro-growth stance taken in 1957 (see above) and refusal of money that will never come back.
Coleman Swamp Boulevard and the Windsor Road Bypass
1989: To relieve congestion on Route 17, a parallel road was proposed through Coleman Swamp. At about the same time, some residents of Windsor Road (Route 3) in Mathews, complaining about congestion, wanted the road to be rerouted to provide a straight link between Route 14 and Route 3 at Dixie. The state eventually said no.
Enlarging the Court House grid
Finally, among many downtown improvement plans that have been proposed at Mathews Court House for the past 20 years, a persistent suggestion has been made to construct a parallel street to the east of Main Street, creating blocks that will keep cars in town and provide more places for businesses to build up. We like the idea and some of the others… but will the time ever be right?