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MPO gets input on possible transportation projects

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization is working to decide which projects to submit in the next round of a major state transportation funding program.

On Wednesday, the board gave feedback and asked questions about six possible projects that ultimately would be submitted to the state’s Smart Scale process.

The projects the MPO is considering are a roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and District Avenue near the Shops at Stonefield; an extension of Hillsdale Drive Extension from Hydraulic Road to U.S. 250; a bike and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River near Riverview Park; multi-modal improvements along Avon Street; multi-modal improvements along Fifth Street; and a flyover of U.S. 29.

A Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee member, Lee Kondor, recently proposed a project to that committee that would create a grade-separated interchange/flyover to move traffic between the U.S. 250 Bypass and U.S. 29.

A grade-separated intersection for the U.S. 29-Hydraulic Road intersection originally was preferred by an advisory panel, but about a year ago, it was ultimately decided to pursue smaller projects after the proposal was not funded in a prior Smart Scale round.

In the most recent round of Smart Scale, a project was funded that includes a pedestrian overpass with bus stops and shelters at Zan Road; left turn elimination from Hydraulic Road to U.S. 29; a pedestrian crossing at Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29; a multi-lane roundabout at Hillsdale Drive and Hydraulic Road; a “Green-T” at Angus Road and U.S. 29 left turn; and turn restrictions at Hydraulic Road and Michie Drive and Hydraulic Drive and Brandywine Drive.

The total project cost is estimated to be $24 million, with $5.7 million coming from this round of Smart Scale and $18.3 million coming from remaining funds from the U.S. 29-Hydraulic Road preliminary engineering budget and the Hillsdale Extension project.

Kondor, a consulting engineer, said he came up with the proposal for the flyover because he doesn’t think the approved projects will alleviate traffic issues.

“I actually did an analysis of the traffic at the intersection and determined that eliminating the left turns from Hydraulic Road onto [U.S.] 29, then using that additional time in the light cycle for the straight-through traffic had a pretty small effect, and then you’d still need to accommodate the traffic that would have turned left that now has to go on to Hydraulic Road or [U.S.] 29 some other way, which lengthened some other light cycles,” he said. “So, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t do very much at all.”

The proposed project would create a grade-separated interchange or a “flyover” to move traffic between the U.S. 250 Bypass and U.S. 29. The entrance/exit points onto the ramp would be located on U.S. 250 west of the interchange with U.S. 29 and on U.S. 29 just south of the intersection between U.S. 29 and Seminole Court, utilizing the existing U.S. 29 median to support the structure. Kondor estimated it would cost about $50 million.

“I think the biggest concern that we have as staff is that one of the reasons our Hydraulic project in round four [of Smart Scale] was so successful was because we were able to leverage the $18 million that had been designated for the [Route] 29 Solutions to decrease the amount of the cost that we were actually asking for through the Smart Scale process,” said Sandy Shackelford, director of planning and transportation for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

“If we move forward, there’s some concern that this project would not be eligible unless we rescinded the award that we were given for the round four project, and then if that occurs, then we would lose that $18 million contribution and this last round was the last time that projects would be eligible [to use the $18 million].”

The proposed roundabout at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and District Avenue near Stonefield and a proposed extension of Hillsdale Drive from Hydraulic Road to U.S. 250 were also part of initial packages of projects for the U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road intersection. Both are also recommended as part of the Hydraulic/29 Small Area Plan.

The Hillsdale Extension project was submitted during the most recent round of Smart Scale, but was not recommended for funding.

Studies of both Avon Street and Fifth Street recently were completed, and multi-modal improvements could be submitted along both or either roads, Shackelford said.

“The county is also considering a grant this year for under the [state] revenue-sharing program to do some of those recommendations from the Avon Street study, but they’re all located down at the southern end of this corridor — what you show basically from Mill Creek Drive to just shy of the interstate there — and we are looking to move forward with that,” Kevin McDermott, an Albemarle planning manager, said. “But I think if the city and the MPO would like to partner up on other ideas for the areas closer to the boundary, then we would be happy to look at that also.”

Tony Edwards, the city’s public works development services manager, said this corridor is something the city has been looking at for improvements for some time.

“The Belmont Bridge is currently under way now, and working our way south is part of the city’s approach to improvements along this corridor, so we would certainly welcome this type of project,” he said.

In January, the Virginia Department of Transportation completed a study of Fifth Street from Harris Road in Charlottesville and Ambrose Commons Drive in Albemarle, and a roundabout at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street Extended was approved for funding in the most recent round of Smart Scale.

Another consideration for a submission is a bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River. A feasibility study for a possible pedestrian bridge over the river in the area of Riverview Park was completed last year and identified two potential crossings. A third potential crossing was recommended by the Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee.

“If this project is selected by the policy board as being one of the priority projects that you want to pursue, part of that process is going to be to look at the options that have been developed at this point to determine if there are additional configurations that often need to be considered,” Shackelford said.

The MPO will decide on four projects at its meeting July 28, and on which two of those should go through more intense public engagement.


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