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At least 12 transportation project applications to be submitted for Smart Scale

Safety improvements on Fifth Street in Charlottesville, changes to the intersection of Rio Road and Belvedere Boulevard and adjustments to U.S. 250 in eastern Albemarle County are among several local road projects that officials hope receive state funding.

Area governments and organizations are planning to submit at least a dozen transportation projects in Charlottesville and Albemarle County for the next round of a major state transportation funding program.

The city and county are joined by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission in being able to submit a maximum of four applications each to the state’s Smart Scale process.

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.

The state gives submitted projects a benefit score based on safety, congestion mitigation, accessibility, land-use, economic development and environmental quality, which is then divided by the overall amount of funding that is being requested.

“It’s competitive. It’s important to remember that, while we hope our region is very successful in receiving project funding, we are in some senses competing against each other for resources,” said Sandy Shackelford, director of planning and transportation of the TJPDC.

Pre-applications for the proposed projects are due April 1 and the final submissions are due Aug. 1. Funded projects get put in the state’s six-year improvement program.

Charlottesville plans to submit a project for Fifth Street from the Cherry Avenue/Elliott Avenue intersection to Harris Road. Seven people have been killed in accidents on that stretch of the road in the last six years, and the city council recently voted to lower the speed limit to 40 miles per hour.

“We do have a consultant that’s on board to narrow down what this project is going to look like,” city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan said. “There will be future public meetings coming, probably in April, for public comment on what exactly this project is going to be before we do our final submittal in August.”

Cost estimates are not yet known for the project, which will be the city’s only submission this round.

“We’ve won plenty over the last several rounds of Smart Scale, so we just need to get those under design and started in construction before we have the staff power to take on more projects,” Duncan said.

Albemarle plans to submit four projects, including one for a Green-T intersection at Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road. The intersection is an alternative design that allows through traffic to keep flowing and separates turning vehicles. It is one of the projects recommended in a corridor study of Rio Road.

If it were to be built, drivers who want to turn left from Belvedere Boulevard onto Rio Road would watch for oncoming traffic from the left and use a channelized lane to merge onto Rio after passing through the intersection.

The estimated cost is $2.7 million. Localities can contribute funding to the projects.

Two additional planned county submissions are for shared-use paths — one on a portion of the west side of Avon Street Extended, with a pedestrian crossing of Avon Street near the Lakeside Apartments, and another on the west side of Fifth Street/Old Lynchburg Road. An initial cost estimate for the Fifth Street project is $9.2 million, and the Avon Street Extended project is estimated to cost $1.2 million.

Kevin McDermott, a planning manager in Albemarle, said a roundabout at Old Trail Drive and U.S. 250 in Crozet is the fourth submission, which does not yet have a cost estimate.

Last year, the policy board chose projects that the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO will submit — a $8.3 million 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 that will cost an estimated $11.3 million or $15.3 million; multi-modal improvements along Avon Street from Avon Court to Druid Avenue; and multi-modal improvements along Fifth Street from Harris Road south to the city limits.

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission plans to submit three projects in the area, including two that have been identified through the state’s “Project Pipeline,” which looks at needs across the state.

U.S. 250 at its intersections with Route 22 and Milton Drive was identified as one of the areas needing changes, and so far potential projects include extending the existing merge lane from southbound Route 22 onto U.S. 250 and adding a traffic signal; adding a displaced left turn lane for traffic heading onto northbound Route 22; and adding a roundabout at Milton Drive.

Chuck Proctor, the Virginia Department of Transportation Culpeper District planning manager, said because there are not as many left turns in the morning onto Route 22, the displaced left turn lane would give more time for the westbound U.S. 250 traffic to move through the intersection.

The second area identified is along U.S. 250 in the Pantops area, which includes a number of changes along the road between Hansen Road and Hansen Mountain Road, including a pedestrian crossing.

“Traffic engineering had done a signal timing plan — they just completed it and implemented it this past year,” Proctor said. “So that addressed the operational concerns that we had about the corridor, but we still had some safety and some pedestrian and [transportation demand management] improvements that we wanted to try to address.”

TJPDC staff said surveys about the roads in the Project Pipeline areas just ended and additional public engagement will be part of the process before the projects are completed. Cost estimates for the projects have not yet been finalized.

The TJPDC also plans to submit a project to extend Hillsdale Drive from Hydraulic Road down to U.S. 250 and relocate some of the ramps, which did not yet have a cost estimate.

McDermott said the county is also working with VDOT on a possible project at the western intersection of U.S. 250 and Old Ivy Road near the Market at Bellair, but that “we have not been able to come up with any good ideas for how to address the issues.”

Comments on the projects can be submitted online at campo.tjpdc.org/smart-scale.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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