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Crozet park and ride promises to cut down on Charlottesville commutes

As Crozet has evolved from a sleepy village in Albemarle County into a well-populated suburb of Charlottesville, commuter traffic has naturally ticked up.

To address rising congestion concerns, Albemarle County has secured funding to build a new park and ride lot for Crozet commuters to encourage carpooling and public transit.

The lot has been budgeted at $5 million, with plans for 25 parking spaces, a bike rack and bus lane. Located on the east side of U.S. Route 250-Rockfish Gap Turnpike, the lot is to be accessed from Route 824.

“There are a lot of park and ride lots where on weekdays we see people come in from different places and share a car from there to wherever they’re headed,” Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Lou Hatter told The Daily Progress.

The project has been in the works for years, a result of joint planning between Albemarle and Augusta counties and the cities of Waynesboro and Staunton. An application for it to receive funding was first submitted in 2018.

“The goal has been to reduce the daily commuter load which cuts the functionality of Route 64 eastbound in the morning and westbound in the evening,” Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek, who represents the county’s White Hall District where Crozet is located, told The Daily Progress. “When there is an accident, the traffic exits and creates a logjam on parallel roads such as 250. All of these interfere with emergency vehicle access as well as citizen mobility.”

The most recent application was approved to receive money from Smart Scale, a program that funds critical transportation needs across the commonwealth. Submitted projects are graded on a variety of factors, such as how they improve safety, reduce congestion, increase accessibility, contribute to economic development, promote efficient land use and affect the environment.

The Afton Express commuter bus, which provides transportation between Staunton, Waynesboro, Fishersville, Charlottesville and Albemarle County, has seen success, and Mallek said there are plans to have it run more frequently. That expansion will include stops at the Crozet park and ride project, which is currently running ahead of schedule and is expected to be completed in 2027.

The Crozet lot scored high enough with Smart Scale to receive funding. State and federal money will cover the costs of construction, estimated at $3.8 million.

Smart Scale has budgeted $5 million for the project, but VDOT does not expect it to cost that much, in part because no land will need to be purchased.

“We’re using a portion of the right-of-way between Route 824-Patterson Mill Lane and the ramp for Interstate 64 east,” Hatter said.

That’s land that was acquired by the commonwealth when I-64 was built.

“We don’t intend to buy any property for the project. Some of those funds will be unused and at the end of the project they will go back to the Smart Scale program,” Hatter said. “We refer to it as a budget of $5 million, not that it’s going to cost that.”

A dozen people attended a public hearing about the project in late January.

“I don’t think anyone there was fundamentally opposed to the park and ride lot,” Hatter said, noting that some were outright supportive of the proposal.

There were some concerns about developing the land and possible environmental impacts. The department will construct a stormwater basin, which will collect water from the lot so excess rainwater doesn’t cause erosion. Additionally, VDOT will make some improvements to I-64 and Route 250 to accommodate the extra traffic the lot could bring to the immediate vicinity.

While the project will be paid for with commonwealth and federal dollars, local taxpayers will foot the bill for maintenance and upkeep.

“This park and ride is funded through federal rural highway dollars and is an easy access location for western county people to meet the Afton Express or other shared transport to the university and other local employers,” Mallek said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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