Charlottesville officials gave updates on the proposed Barracks Road-Emmet Street intersection improvement project at a public hearing this past week.
The project, fully funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program, is part of a multi-year plan to improve transportation throughout the city.
The project includes three main improvements: the addition of a shared-use path to connect to future trails; new turn lanes to eliminate traffic volume at the intersection; and safer pedestrian and cyclist mobility.
The design team is led by Timmons Group, an engineering firm that has a regional office in the city. The team is working with city employees and members of city committees, as well as local businesses, to create the project design.
Kyle Kling, transportation project manager with the city, said the design has gone through several rounds of feedback and city engineering review and is nearing a point suitable for acquiring right-of-way from adjacent property owners.
“Ordination with private utility companies has been ongoing to establish relocation strategies that minimize impacts to properties, while also removing conflicts with planned construction,” Kling said at Wednesday’s hearing.
If the current proposal is approved, bike facilities will be constructed in two places at the intersection and tie into a future trail along Meadowbrook Road. One will be constructed along Emmet Street south of Barracks Road and turn east along the northside of Barracks Road. The second will be constructed on the south side of Barracks Road up to Hilltop Road.
With new development along the corridor, right-turn lanes will be added to northbound Emmet Street and westbound Barracks Road. This will involve relocating one traffic pole and acquisition of right-of-way.
In addition, improvements will be made for safer bike and pedestrian crossings that include the implementation of pedestrian refuge islands across both streets to allow walkers and cyclists more comfort and safety as they cross the street.
Improvements also are being made to an existing bus stop that includes a full bus pull-off and shelter.
“While right-of-way is being acquired and utilities relocated, final engineering details will be completed to gain approval by VDOT and city staff by the time the project is ready to go to construction in 2023,” Kling said.
In 2018, the city submitted an application for funding through VDOT’s Smart Scale prioritization process, which provides funding for local projects across the state on a competitive basis. The project was awarded $8.6 million of state and federal funding to improve the Barracks-Emmet intersection, as well as to provide multimodal upgrades along Barracks Road.
The planning phase of the project began in 2019 with the collection of traffic data, a survey of existing conditions, defining constraints, evaluating alternatives through public engagement and developing detailed engineering design plans.
In 2019, the team surveyed community members and held public forums to get public feedback.
“It is the city’s goal to provide continuous opportunities for the public to engage and influence the development of city transportation projects. In line with this goal, we began the planning process by meeting with individual property owners directly affected by the project, and continued with the formation of a steering committee made up of various interest group representatives with steering committee input,” Kling said.
“We learned more about the real-life issues and challenges local residents face, as well as what goals they would like to see accomplished with the project.”
In February 2020, the city Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend that the City Council support moving forward with the final design of the project. Kling said there is not currently a council vote scheduled for the project design, but he anticipates it will be on the agenda in late August or early September.
The design team encourages community members to submit input on the project prior to the final vote. Comments can be submitted at barracksemmetimprovements.com/contacts.