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Shared-use connector path may require relocation of Monticello Gateway trees

A proposed shared-use path may force the relocation of multiple memorial trees along Route 20 in Albemarle County.

The shared-use path is one of the project submissions from the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization for Smart Scale — the current primary method for funding large-scale transportation projects in Virginia — and would create bike and pedestrian access from the city to Piedmont Virginia Community College and the Saunders Monticello Trailhead.

The trees were planted in the median of Route 20 near Interstate 64 as part of an effort between Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards, Monticello, Journey Through Hallowed Ground and the Virginia Department of Transportation to create the Monticello Gateway.

Dorothy Smith, past president of the tree stewards and Monticello Gateway project manager, said she was shocked and hurt that the group was not approached ahead of the shared-use path’s initial submission.

“It’s a design — it’s not just a bunch of trees put out there, it’s a concept,” she said. “And the difficulty is that it’s a young concept. It’s only five years old.”

This week, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is hosting two public virtual workshops on the upcoming round of Smart Scale projects.

MPO and TJPDC projects will be presented from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Charlottesville and Albemarle projects will be presented from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Representatives from the area will provide overviews of the transportation projects planned for final submission in August for funding through VDOT’s Smart Scale program and there will be time for questions from the public.

To register for the virtual workshops, visit

Charlottesville, Albemarle, TJPDC and the MPO may each submit a maximum of four applications. The proposed shared-use path on Route 20 is one of the MPO’s four submissions.

Pre-applications for the proposed projects have already been submitted.

In addition to the shared-use path, the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO has submitted a project to extend Hillsdale Drive south and connect it to U.S 250 westbound, improvements at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road and interchange improvements at Fontaine Avenue and the U.S. 29 Bypass

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission submitted county projects for a shared-use path on U.S. 29 from Carrsbrook Drive to Riverside Center, a park-and-ride lot at Exit 107 off Interstate 64, a trail hub and trails at 5th Street and a restricted crossing U-turn at the intersection of Frays Mill Road, Burnley Station Road and U.S. 29.

Albemarle has submitted projects to close the open median on the U.S. 250 corridor from Peoples Place to Hanson Road, a roundabout at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53, a roundtable at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street Extended, a roundabout at Rio Road and John Warner Parkway and a restricted crossing U-turn at the intersection of Rio Road and Belvedere Boulevard.

Charlottesville has submitted the third phase of the West Main Streetscape project, improvements at the intersections of Preston and Grady avenues, the second phase of streetscape improvements along Emmet Street and multimodal transportation improvements on Ridge Street between Cherry Avenue and West Main Street.

All applications must ultimately include a resolution of support from the submitting entities’ governing body.

Some kind of pedestrian and bike connection on the corridor of Route 20 heading south out of Charlottesville is mentioned in multiple area plans, including the county’s Southern and Western Neighborhoods Master Plan and the Jefferson Area Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

Kevin McDermott, the principal planner for transportation in Albemarle, said the shared-use project was developed from a joint regional bike and pedestrian committee’s request.

“I think it would work really well, especially if we were to get that roundabout [at Route 20 and Route 53], that would really make that whole area a nice gateway that has bike/ped access all the way up to the Saunders Mountain Trail from the city and from the Rivanna Trail,” he said.

That study, completed by transportation planning consultant Kittelson & Associates, recommended putting the shared-use path in the median due to the proximity of the I-64 and Route 20 interchange. Other options, according to the study, would require crossing highway ramps and create safety and price concerns.

But Peter Krebs with Piedmont Environmental Council, who was also a member of a graduate student project team that studied the gap between the Saunders-Monticello Trail and the community, said the trees are essential to making the corridor appealing.

“This is a memorial grove that has had a lot of work put into it and we need to find a way for them to be there,” he said. “… The trees need to be handled respectfully, they need to remain on site, they can’t be moved to some other distant location. To the extent possible, the trail needs to modify to account for the trees, and in cases where there’s just irreconcilable conflict between trail and tree then the tree needs to move someplace nearby. And I think it’s completely possible to do that.”

Paul Josey, a landscape architect who designed the plan for the trees, said it may be possible to store trees and replant them, but it would not be an easy thing to do.

“I don’t want to seem as a naysayer about the trail,” he said. “I would love a trail from town to connect to Monticello and the trails, but just the approach doesn’t seem at all very public.”

The median currently has a V ditch, and a concept design suggests removal of the existing drainage ditch and installation curb and gutter and closed drainage system around the median, which would raise the existing grades of the median.

“The existing trees, you can’t just fill up against the trunks without them dying,” Josey said.


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