Construction of a diverging diamond interchange on U.S. 250 under Interstate 64 at exit 124 will start in December.
At a Pantops Community Advisory Committee virtual meeting on Tuesday, the project team discussed the timeline for construction, which is expected to last until May 2022, and answered questions from community members.
Most of the concerns were about access from Hansens Mountain Road, off which drivers will lose the ability to turn left across U.S. 250 toward I-64.
The design of a diverging diamond eliminates traditional left turns that cross over oncoming traffic and shifts vehicles to the opposite side of the road. The first diverging diamond in the state was built at Zion Crossroads and opened in 2014.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, diverging diamonds reduce the number of spots where vehicles can collide, and they can handle twice the capacity of a conventional interchange.
The U.S. 250 project will cost $18.4 million and is one of six projects in Albemarle County that was combined into one design-build contract. Curtis Contracting was awarded the $28.5 million contract in 2019.
Steve Ordung, a project manager with Curtis Contracting, said that traffic will be reconfigured slightly during construction, but ultimately the same through traffic pattern at the intersection will be maintained until the final phases.
The first phase of construction, which will require a single-lane closure to accommodate construction on the U.S. 250 median, will last from December until February.
Sometime between March and October, during the concurrent second and third construction phases of the project, the left turn movements from Hansens Mountain Road onto U.S. 250 will be affected, and drivers will have to make a U-Turn at Peter Jefferson Parkway to head east on U.S. 250.
“That construction will likely go for the entire peak construction season, next summer into fall, and we’ll be building the new ramp alignments on and off of [I-64], some of the splitter islands that will be established for the ultimate diversion pattern and relocation of significant utilities where necessary,” Ordung said. “A lot of the earth moving clearing and so forth will happen during that phase.”
Ordung said lane closures during that time will be at night and in the early morning hours, and that daytime work during phases two and three will occur without interruption to current traffic patterns. In the fourth phase, medians on U.S. 250 will be finalized and traffic signals will be installed using lane and shoulder closures.
In the spring of 2022, over a two-weekend period, traffic will shift onto the new pattern.
“If all go as well as planned, by the spring of 2022 we’ll be wrapping it up and switching traffic into the final alignment,” Ordung said.
Pantops CAC member Sara Robinson said she was worried about drivers coming off of Hansens Mountain Road and having to make the U-Turn at Peter Jefferson Parkway.
“Does anyone, other than me, have a problem with that?,” she asked. “I’m worried about that … I just wish that there was some way you could perhaps … just sort of revisit that a little bit, and just see if there’s some other option there.”
Will Stowe, a VDOT area construction engineer, said options discussed at length in the project development phase with VDOT, the product development team and the Ashcroft homeowners association members.
“It was discussed in length with those folks, and this was determined to be the safest option,” he said.
He said there will be an all red light time where drivers will have an opening and can take a right out of Hansens Mountain Road and proceed across all lanes of traffic to get in the left lane on U.S. 250 headed west to make a U-Turn.
“I think we’ll have a much safer product at the end of the day,” Stowe said.
“Thank you,” Robinson said. “The light explanation means a lot — that that helps tremendously.”