The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Wednesday to support submitting 12 county road improvement projects for Virginia Department of Transportation Smart Scale Funding.
The projects include projects on several county roads, including portions of U.S. 250, Hydraulic Road and Fifth Street, which extends into the city of Charlottesville.
The projects focus on improving driver and pedestrian safety.
Four of the projects are proposed by the county itself, while an additional four are sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and another four are sponsored by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning District Commission.
One county project would extend the shared-use path on the west side of Fifth Street/Old Lynchburg Road from Ambrose Commons to Afton Pond Court. A two-stage pedestrian crossing near Hickory Street would be included.
The project also includes putting Fifth Street, which extend into the city of Charlottesville, on a ‘road diet.’ That’s an industry term for limiting the number of lanes on a road in order to limit the number of vehicles that are using it simultaneously.
“I’m so happy about this. We’ve been hearing about these improvements for years now,” said supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley. “These are all wonderful suggestions.”
Jessica Hersh-Ballering, the county’s transportation planner, said the Smart Scale grant program is the primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia. The process includes VDOT evaluating projects on how likely they are to improve safety, reduce congestion, increase accessibility, contribute to economic development, promote efficient land use, and impact the environment
In the past four rounds, which occur every two years, the area has been relatively successful in receiving Smart Scale funding with 25 projects funded in Albemarle and Charlottesville.
One of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning District Commission proposals also focuses on several improvements to Fifth Street, which would add a left turn lane for southbound Fifth Street traffic to turn onto Fifth Street Station Parkway.
The project would eliminate left turns from northbound Fifth Street into the Food Lion Lion Shopping Center and move that left turn farther up the road. Left turns into and out of the shopping center would be restricted and an eight-foot shared use path would be added to both the east and west sides of Fifth Street from Harris Road to Fifth Street Landing.
The city of Charlottesville is also working on a Smart Scale application for improvements to Fifth Street from the Cherry Avenue/Elliott Avenue intersection to Harris Road. City councilors and planning commissioners have also discussed a road diet model.
The city’s road diet would decrease the number of lanes on Fifth Street by creating a dedicated bus lane, a dedicated bike lane and only one driving lane in each direction divided by a median. The model also includes two sidewalks.
City residents called for changes to Fifth Street in the wake of seven traffic deaths on the street in six years. Supervisors have expressed support for the projects in tandem with city-proposed improvements.
Another county project involves constructing a bi-directional shared-use path adjacent to Avon Street on the west side of the road from Mill Creek Drive to Peregory Lane. That also includes a pedestrian crossing of Avon Street with possible bus shelters.
A project at the Belvedere Boulevard/Rio Road intersection would install a continuous green-T intersection which would allow easier left turns from Belvedere onto Rio Road.
All Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission proposed Smart Scale projects are improvements to U.S. 250, including a pedestrian crossing and continuation of sidewalk along U.S. 250 at Rolkin Road. The left turn at U.S. 250 and Louisa Road would be displaced and construction of a roundabout at U.S. 250/Milton Road.
Several improvements are online for the U.S. 250 intersection with Peter Jefferson Parkway, including a right-turn only lane for eastbound traffic, constructing a new park and ride lot and completing the median between Pantops Mountain Road and Peter Jefferson Parkway.
Another county project would construct a roundabout at the Old Trail Drive and U.S. 250 intersection with pedestrian accommodations, particularly for the pedestrian movement across U.S. 250.
Other Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning District Commission projects include bicycle and pedestrian improvements and road widening on Avon Street, constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and District Avenue near the Stonefield shopping center and construction of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Rivanna River from East Market Street to the Pantops area. Several of these projects extend between the county and city.
“I want to share my approval especially for the roundabout at Hydraulic Road. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost gotten killed. That area is really dangerous,” supervisor Diantha McKeel said. “I get nervous about my kids driving through there.”
Final submissions are due Aug. 1. Funded projects get put in the state’s six-year improvement program.