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4 road projects chosen for applications for Smart Scale funding

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization has decided which projects to submit in the next round of a major state transportation funding program.

On Wednesday, the MPO policy board chose a roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and District Avenue near the Shops at Stonefield; a bike and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River near Riverview Park; multi-modal improvements along Avon Street; and multi-modal improvements along Fifth Street as projects that will be submitted to the state’s Smart Scale process next year.

The bike and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River will have additional community engagement completed during the next year, while the Hydraulic Road and District Avenue roundabout also will have additional outreach done.

“It’s important to know there will be engagement on all four projects that we’re moving forward,” said Christine Jacobs, interim executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “We’re dedicating resources to do much more robust [engagement] on up to two of those.”

The MPO established a framework to select up to two projects of regional interest that would benefit from additional public engagement after concerns over public processes were raised about a project to build a shared-use path in the median of Route 20 that had been submitted as a part of a pre-application for the prior round of Smart Scale.

The path was not supported by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and ultimately not submitted.

“Our goals were to submit projects for Smart Scale applications that would be competitive based on that cost benefit evaluation that occurs during Smart Scale; that have been vetted through a public process; that have demonstrated public support already; and that we’re continuing to move projects forward through the pipeline that starts with our existing plans and studies,” said Sandy Shackelford, director of planning and transportation for the TJPDC.

An extension of Hillsdale Drive Extended from Hydraulic Road to U.S. 250 and a flyover of U.S. 29 were not recommended to move forward.

The Hillsdale South Extension project was not recommended to move forward due to the project cost, but staff said it could be considered for submission by the TJPDC, which also can submit up to four projects, closer to the application deadline next year.

A Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee member, Lee Kondor, had proposed a project to that committee that would create a grade-separated interchange/flyover to move traffic between the U.S. 250 Bypass and U.S. 29, but similar project have been considered in the past and were not moved forward in plans, and it has not been fully vetted, staff said.

Shackelford said the projects that were developed as part of the Hydraulic 29 Solutions Small Area Plan look at circulating traffic through the local area, whereas a flyover would move traffic that needs to pass through the Hydraulic Road intersection area.

“If there is interest in studying that kind of traffic and movement, it really makes sense that we would need to go back and do a much more robust study and go a lot further back and start at the beginning where we assess the concerns and develop a comprehensive approach to identifying what the best solutions could be which might include a design such as this flyover,” she said.

Chuck Proctor, with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said it’s been presented several times through various studies in the past, but did not have a lot of support from the jurisdictions or the public.

“It is a viable option that could be added to the corridor in the future, if the locality wants to pursue it, so it’s not something that the current projects will prohibit, it will actually probably enhance it … but it’s just a matter of going that extra effort to study it — if it’s needed, if we think it’s needed at some point in time in the future,” he said.

He said that is something that could be considered as part of the Long Range Transportation Plan update, which will start next spring.

Albemarle County Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, who also is on the MPO Policy Board, said she was “very reassured” that they were going to look at the flyover in the future, and Supervisor Ned Gallaway said he was also supportive of reviewing that intersection more.

“I will be satisfied that we’re going to look into it in detail then and not make any changes to these recommended things right now,” Mallek said.

Shackelford said the next step is refining the projects.

“What this allows us to do now is to really invest the time and resources into developing well-vetted applications so that when the projects come to you as governing [bodies] for Albemarle and Charlottesville, there’s already public support, the public understands the project … and they’ve been a part of developing the application into what the final submission is going to be,” she said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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