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Pared down Commonwealth Drive sidewalk project to move forward

A sidewalk project along portions of Commonwealth and Dominion drives in Albemarle County will be pared down to meet funding constraints and to avoid possible negative impacts to residents.

The project total is $3.3 million, half of which came from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Revenue Sharing Program in 2018 and the other half from Albemarle. But due to issues discovered during preliminary engineering and design work, the project will not result in complete sidewalks along both sides of either road.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Wednesday supported not adding any sidewalks along Commonwealth Drive between Westfield Road and Dominion Drive as part of the project.

“We are just in the conceptual design phase,” said Lance Stewart, the director of the county’s Department of Facilities and Environmental Services. “There’s still public outreach and more design opportunities to fine-tune and to work with [the Virginia Department of Transportation] on what would be allowable to them.”

Public engagement for the project will begin in the winter.

The section between Westfield Road and Dominion Drive was removed because it would either require grading the already steep front yards along the east side of Commonwealth Drive or lose about 30 unmarked parallel parking spaces on the street.

“Kimley-Horn’s opinion is that the public won’t receive that very favorably,” said Brian McPeters, with Kimley-Horn and Associates, the firm working on the project.

Supervisors asked that a bus stop near the intersection of Commonwealth Drive and Four Seasons Drive, which is just a pole in the front yard of a house, be improved.

At least one side of Dominion Drive will get a sidewalk, but which side is not yet decided.

The project will add shelters to at least three bus stops on Commonwealth Drive. It will also add a sidewalk along the south side of Commonwealth Drive from Hydraulic Road to the first bus stop, where a shelter will be added.

Some board members wanted the sidewalk to extend as far as possible in front of the duplexes that line the road. There is currently a sidewalk along the front of the duplexes, but it is on private property.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel wanted to add a publicly maintained one in the existing right-of-way, but McPeters said that would require working with each individual property owner.

McKeel said it was “a lost opportunity around equity in a community that needs some help.”

“What we’re really doing on this one side is pushing everybody on the sidewalk on private property, which is not very well maintained,” she said.

Assistant County Executive Trevor Henry said county staff and the consultants have spent multiple years looking at the sidewalk project.

“This is an area that needs continued focus,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is move this project forward in an executable way that provides some improvement. It may not be the ultimate vision of what we want to do here.”


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