The Fontaine Streetscape Improvements Project team presented plans for the Charlottesville corridor during a virtual public hearing Wednesday night.
The project seeks to improve pedestrian and bicycle facilities, safety for all users, transit access and facilities and traffic flow.
Fontaine Avenue is a mixed-use residential/commercial gateway to Charlottesville and the University of Virginia. The project area extends from the city limits near Fontaine Research Park to and including the intersection of Fontaine Avenue and Jefferson Park Avenue, about half a mile in length.
One of the major goals of the project is creating a buffer space between the roadway and bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks and walkways.
The project is led by RK&K, a civil engineering firm based in Baltimore, and Toole Design, a national transportation engineering firm, in association with the city. The presentation was led by Kyle Kling of RK&K, who is serving as project manager.
The project is expected to connect to Albemarle County’s proposed bicycle and pedestrian facilities that will lead to Fontaine Research Park and beyond; improve access to the UVa Medical Center from Interstate 64 and U.S. 29; increase opportunities for people to efficiently access businesses, jobs, services and distribution hubs; and provide opportunities to reduce vehicular travel by improving pedestrian walkways and bike lanes.
The existing right-of-way is 50 feet wide with two travel lanes, limited on-street parking, a 4-foot-wide sidewalk on the southern side of the street and non-continuous bike lanes.
The project team will start finalizing the design and seek approval from the City Council this summer. Construction is estimated to begin in the spring of 2023.
The project is fully funded by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program and will cost approximately $11.7 million.
After Kling presented the proposed design, community members were given the opportunity to ask questions about the project.
Several community members voiced concerns about a lack of left-turn lanes in the plan.
“I deal with this every day. When you’re coming up from the bypass and someone has turned left into Piedmont housing, just west of the firehouse, it just backs everything up,” said Bill Goldeen. “The road already can’t handle the commute traffic. And you’re now going to funnel it down into one very tight lane with no way to turn left.”
Kling said there are no plans to add designated left-turn lanes, and the focus of the project is the safety of pedestrians and cyclists and to make them more visible to turning vehicles. He said he hopes some of the road expansion will improve congestion.
Ken Ornelas, a local business owner, asked how the widening of the road would affect the property of businesses on Fontaine Avenue.
“I’ve been told that I’m losing a parking spot … we don’t have much of an issue with that but how’s it going to impact our signage? How is redoing signage for these businesses in the area going to work?” Ornelas asked.
Kling said the project managers will work with business owners if the project encroaches on their property, but he isn’t concerned about a lot of signage or business properties being affected.
“If the design is proposed to impact any signage, we’ll work with the property owner to relocate those to a spot that’s mutually agreed upon,” he said. “Based off of what my understanding is, there’s the only one area [of businesses] that we see now potentially being impacted.”
Kling addressed concerns about how construction will impact traffic.
“We are hopeful to have traffic moving through the corridor, one lane in each direction for the majority of construction,” he said. “There’s no easy way to construct this project without having impacts, but there will be no detour. We will keep the road open, and we will have access to businesses and residences throughout the project.”
Kling said there will be no changes to the current speed limit of 35 mph.
A public comment period was held following the question and answer portion. The project team did not respond to these comments live but will do so in an online document that will be posted on the project website by the first week of June.
Comments and questions can still be submitted via online survey through May 26 by visiting the project website at fontainestreetscape.com. The team’s responses to survey questions and comments also will be posted on the website, along with the other responses.