Since it was first conceived more than a decade ago, a $30 million project to extend Hillsdale Drive into Charlottesville has been managed by city officials.
But Charlottesville officials are now considering handing over management of the $30-million Hillsdale Drive extension to coordinate its implementation with $230 million in projects to alleviate congestion on U.S. 29. That includes an additional $17 million for Hillsdale.
“Over the course of the next several weeks, there are going to be some issues that need to be addressed concerning some of the road projects connected to the Route 29 Solutions Panel,” said City Manager Maurice Jones.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the U.S. 29 panel after news broke in February that the Federal Highway Administration was unlikely to grant an environmental clearance for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29. Four months later, the Commonwealth Transportation Board transferred funding to the alternative projects shephered by former VDOT Commissioner Philip Shucet.
Jones said VDOT plans to move the package of U.S. 29 projects forward using a design-build bidding process.
“The goal is to advertise a request for qualifications by July 24 and have the Commonwealth Transportation Board award the contract in March 2015,” Jones said.
One or more firms would be responsible for planning and constructing Berkmar Drive Extended, the widening of U.S. 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Town Center, the Rio Road interchange and the extension of Hillsdale Drive south to Holiday Drive.
Jones said VDOT has been instructed by McAuliffe to have all of the projects completed by July 2017.
“VDOT has also asked the city to consider relinquishing control of the Hillsdale Drive Extended project in an effort to include it in the design-build contract,” Jones said.
“One of our concerns about having VDOT administer [Hillsdale] is that they may not be as directly involved with the businesses along that area so we would recommend they develop a business outreach plan,” Jones added.
In an email, VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter disputed that the agency wants to take over the project.
“VDOT approached the city to determine its interest in including Hillsdale Drive Extended in the process now under way to develop and deliver the Route 29 projects,” Hatter said.
Hatter directed all other questions about Hillsdale to city officials.
Hillsdale Extended has been planned as a nearly one-mile, three-lane road that would stretch through shopping center. The first phase opened in the summer 2010 when Whole Foods relocated to Hydraulic Road.
It has long been assumed that right of way for the road would be donated by landowners, but the CTB has now funded money to allow the land to be purchased through eminent domain.
City Councilor Kathy Galvin said the vicinity of the Hydraulic Road intersection is also one of the candidates for a small area plan. She added she did not want VDOT to interfere with the city’s urban planning potential.
“The build-out potential is great and it’s supposed to become an urban area, so I do not think VDOT alone and working in isolation would create a road that would actually be conducive to urban development,” Galvin said.
Galvin’s concern is that Hillsdale would become a high-speed road that would preclude redevelopment.
Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said that the council could transfer control of the project on the condition that VDOT build the plans that have been in the works for the last decade. The council agreed and voted to begin negotiations.
Jones also wanted to know if the southern extension of Hillsdale to Holiday Drive should be built now, or whether it should wait until preliminary engineering for the Hydraulic Road interchange is conducted. That was another project identified by U.S. 29 advisory panel head Philip A. Shucet and funded by the transportation board for $10 million.
Councilor Kristin Szakos said she was concerned the extension of Hillsdale doesn’t go far enough.
“The idea is that ultimately in the plans that have already gone through the city process is to take [Hillsdale] all the way down to the 250 bypass, but what Mr. Shucet has gotten funded through the state only takes it down to Holiday Drive which doesn’t add functionality,” Szakos said.
Tolbert said VDOT officials have told him they do not think that is feasible.
“One of the legitimate concerns they have is that if you tie [Hillsdale] into Route 250, it impacts the ramp that goes down now to 29 off of 20 there in front of Best Buy,” Tolbert said.
Tolbert said the issue might be made more clear as the grade-separated intersection is designed.
Jones said VDOT is also considering allowing the contractor to do night work from 8:00 pm to 5:00 am.
“We do understand their desire to avoid increasing congestion along that corridor during the day, Jones said. “However we do have some concerns about the impact that would have on a couple of businesses along there, especially the two hotels and the neighborhood right off of U.S. 250.”
More details could be revealed as the Route 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel holds its first meeting on Thursday. Tolbert and Mayor Satyendra Huja are among the panel’s 12 members.
Others include: Peter Borches, president of Carter Myers Automotive Properties; Eddie Giles, owner of Professional Movers Inc.; Chuck Lebo, owner of Lebo Commercial Properties Inc.; John Nunley, president of Better Living Inc.; Karen Weiner, manager of Fashion Square Mall; and Henry Weinschenk, CEO of Express Car Wash Inc.
The meeting begins at 2:00 pm and the video will be live-streamed at www.Route 29 Solutions.org.