Mayor calls for removal of Lewis and Clark statue

Once work on the West Main Streetscape commences as early as 2020, it could feature the removal of Charlottesville’s controversial statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Sacagawea.

“I would like for us to really consider … what other space that statue could occupy. Somewhere other than Charlottesville, maybe?” Mayor Nikuyah Walker said.

Current plans for the streetscape would be to adjust the location of the statue in the intersection to accommodate a right-turn lane that would replace the current slip lane from West Main Street to Ridge Street.

The statue has raised concerns because of its depiction of Sacagawea. Erected in 1919, the bronze sculpture by Charles Keck depicts Lewis and Clark standing and gazing westward and Sacagawea in a crouched position. In 2009, a plaque was installed that explained the Shoshone woman’s work in guiding the explorers on their transcontinental journey. That statue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Walker’s comments came after the City Council on Monday moved forward the Virginia Department of Transportation’s match of funds the city allocated for the streetscape. If the prorated $2,704,319 from the state for fiscal year 2019 and $408,094 received from older, completed VDOT revenue-sharing projects get final approval in an upcoming consent agenda, the city would have about $6 million through this request. The entire first phase is estimated to cost $11.3 million, according to city documents.

In 2016, the City Council approved zoning modifications and design concepts for West Main Street, which links downtown to the University of Virginia. The city in 2016 also asked VDOT for $18.6 million toward the project, but the application did not qualify.

The entire project — which includes widened sidewalks, underground utilities, more trees and street furniture — is expected to cost about $31 million and stretch from Ridge Street to Jefferson Park Avenue. About $10 million of that total would go toward placing utilities underground and would not be eligible for transportation funds, documents state.

The city chose consultant firm Rhodeside & Hartwell to design the first phase, and final construction documents aren’t expected to be ready until the spring.

The first phase will run from Ridge Street to Sixth Street Northwest. The city has submitted an application for $2 million in matched funds in the fiscal 2020 program for the second phase, which will stretch between Sixth and Eighth streets Northwest. That amount has been awarded and will be up for a council vote in 2019, according to city officials.

“We applied for phase two for federal funds, as well,” said Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative program manager.

The city has submitted a Smart Scale application with VDOT for the remaining funding, as well. If it is not awarded, an additional VDOT revenue-sharing application would be sought, documents state.

“Ground will be broken within two years, definitely,” on public utility relocation, private utility relocation or the roadwork, Janiczek said of the first phase.