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Albemarle looks to narrow down transportation project priorities

Albemarle County is working to narrow down which of its priority transportation projects it plans to seek state funding for over the next two years.

Kevin McDermott, a county planning manager, said the county is not going to update its transportation priority list this year, as the board and staff have tried to do every two years, due to staff time constraints.

“What I’d like to do here today is just let you know where we are with the existing list and the upcoming projects so that we can start to make decisions about the next projects that we’d apply for in grant cycles for Revenue Sharing in 2021 and in Smart Scale for 2022,” McDermott said at Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

The region was quite successful in the last round of Smart Scale, with 13 out of 15 submitted projects being recommended for funding. The Commonwealth Transportation Board is set to make final approvals at its meeting next month.

Finishing Eastern Avenue south from Westhall Drive across Lickinghole Creek to Cory Farms Road/U.S. 250, as well as a shared-use path along the west side Avon Street from Mill Creek Drive to Peregory Lane with a pedestrian crossing of Avon Street, were recommendations for this year’s Virginia Department of Transportation Revenue Sharing program.

McDermott said an alignment study and conceptual design currently are being done for Eastern Avenue. Recent updated cost estimates from the consultant are at $19.9 million for the project.

“There is a $10 million limit for a Revenue Sharing application period, so Eastern Avenue, with the $19 million cost estimates, we’ll be eating up all of that, essentially because the county would be providing $10 million, and then we would be requesting $10 million from the state,” he said.

The deadline to figure out which project or projects the county will submit is July 1, and then the final application period runs between August and October.

McDermott said the state’s Revenue Sharing program has changed and money is not going to be available for about five years after any approvals are made, similar to the Smart Scale program.

In terms of VDOT Smart Scale applications, which is the current primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia, county staff identified seven potential projects from the county’s priority list to submit in the next funding round, which opens in 2022.

Projects on the preliminary list include a roundabout at District Avenue and Hydraulic Road; construction of a new public roadway along the eastern boundary of the Fashion Square mall property from Mall Drive to Rio Road and a roundabout at Rio Road; changes at the U.S. 250 West-U.S. 29 Bypass interchange; changes at the Belvedere Boulevard-Rio Road intersection; bicycle and pedestrian improvements on Fifth Street Extended; intersection improvements at Crozet Avenue and U.S. 250; and a bike and pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River that would connect south Pantops to Woolen Mills.

Albemarle, Charlottesville, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization may each submit a maximum of four applications for Smart Scale funding, and some of the potential projects in Albemarle likely will be submitted by the TJPDC or MPO.

McDermott said a Crozet transportation study that included evaluations of the intersections along U.S. 250 show that Crozet Avenue is performing slightly better than the intersections at Old Trail Drive and the Brownsville Elementary School/Henley Middle School entrance.

“The consideration could be made that instead of focusing on Crozet Avenue, perhaps we should be looking for a Smart Scale project there at Old Tail and the Brownsville Elementary School entrance, so that’s a consideration that I think the board should probably keep in mind,” he said.

Within the past week, McDermott said VDOT has reached out to the county about two additional potential projects they would like to evaluate for consideration for Smart Scale.

One of those is improvements at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Route 22/Milton Road.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about U.S. 250 east of Charlottesville and the problems we have out there,” McDermott said. “VDOT has identified this as well through the state [Virginia’s Transportation Plan] process as a high priority, and that’s why they came to us asking about it.”

The other project suggestion from VDOT is multimodal corridor improvements on U.S. 250 from Hanson Road to Peter Jefferson Parkway.

“Components of it would be bicycle and pedestrian, transit and potentially looking at locations for a park-and-ride that could be connected to the transit and bike/ped improvements, as well as other corridor improvements [and] crossings of U.S. 250, all things that were recommended in the Pantops Master Plan,” McDemott said.

VDOT has said it will do the planning services that would be required for these projects, including public involvement and conceptual designs, he said.

Supervisor Bea LaPisto-Kirtley asked about the possibility for a roundabout at the intersection of Routes 22 and 231.

“It’s a rural road, and we’re getting cars and trucks, especially large trucks, that shouldn’t be there,” she said. “The reason why they’re going through there is because the younger truck drivers are using the Apple GPS, and that’s the road they take instead of going down [U.S.] 15 to the [Interstate 64] freeway.”

McDermott said that would be a high-cost project and it hasn’t reached the priority level where the county could get it evaluated unless the county funded it.

“That’s something that the Board of Supervisors can work on with our finance and budget office through the capital program and identify funding that we can put towards it to see if a roundabout would be appropriate and give us some idea as to the cost of it,” he said. “Once we get that information, then we can look at how a future funding application might be done.”


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