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Supervisors whittle down transportation requests
David Benish, Albemarle County's acting planning director, August 3, 2016
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David Benish
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Sean Tubbs | Wednesday, August 03, 2016 at 8:32 p.m.

Albemarle County transportation planners will further refine six road projects before submitting them to state officials in late September.

This is the second time that the Commonwealth Transportation Board will consider funding requests based on how they score on a list of criteria that include addressing congestion and promoting economic development.

“Smart Scale is a criteria-based priority-setting process, so we try to select the projects that will compete best,” said David Benish, Albemarle’s acting director of planning. “Each project is looked at objectively.”

The Smart Scale process was mandated by a law passed by the General Assembly in 2014. In June, the CTB awarded $1.7 billion to 163 projects statewide that qualified through the process.

The City of Charlottesville was successful in obtaining $29.5 million in streetscape projects in the first round, while neither Albemarle County nor the Metropolitan Planning Organization were successful in getting their projects funded.

Supervisors agreed Wednesday that county staff should focus on six projects.

One would bring pedestrian crossings and other traffic management improvements on U.S. 250 near the Harris Teeter in Crozet, including a potential roundabout.

“This is a request for funding for a traffic circle potentially and an evaluation of a possible crosswalk,” Benish said. “That’s an area where speeds are supposed to be reduced, but that’s not currently happening.”

Another would be a further extension of Berkmar Drive to Lewis and Clark Drive through Hollymead Town Center and the University of Virginia Research Park.

“With the completion of Berkmar Drive Extended, adding these projects would complete a parallel road network,” Benish said, adding that this project might score highly due to economic development that could be enabled from increased access to the research park.

In another project, the county would ask for $2.75 million for an extension of Rio Mills Road to the new Berkmar Drive Extended.

Three intersection improvements are also under consideration. They are at U.S. 250 and Route 240 in Crozet, U.S. 250 and Route 151 in western Albemarle and Proffit Road and Route 20 in northern Albemarle.

Last month, the MPO Policy Board selected $30 million worth of improvements to Free Bridge as its candidate for Smart Scale’s second round.

However, the MPO board may also be asked to submit a smaller version of a project that failed to qualify for funding last year.

In the first year, the MPO selected a $146 million project to rebuild Interstate 64’s exit 118, and the county opted to submit a plan for exit 124.

“The projects scored very low last year, scoring low in the safety and economic development criteria,” Benish said. “VDOT is currently evaluating alternative, lower-cost designs for both projects as well as other modifications to the scope of the projects that may improve its score.”

The MPO may submit a much smaller proposal for exit 118 to address at least one safety issue at the intersection, specifically the merging of eastbound traffic on to and off of I-64. The details will be worked out before the end of September.

“This will have some operational and safety features to it,” said Joel DeNunzio, administrator of VDOT’s Charlottesville residency. “But it’s not the complete solution for the interchange.”

Another resubmission is a project to improve Sunset Avenue and extend the roadway to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville’s Southwood property. That project did not qualify for funding in the last cycle.

Benish suggested removing it from consideration because it did not appear it would score highly.

“The rating system is scaled, and for our region we don’t get a lot of points for congestion management,” said Kevin McDermott, the county’s new transportation planner.

Supervisors will eventually need to adopt a resolution supporting the projects.

The City of Charlottesville will apply for funding for the West Main Streetscape project. The Smart Scale process will not be conducted again until 2018.

In 2017, VDOT will take applications for its revenue-sharing program, under which localities must make an equal match up to $10 million.

Benish said if money is already set aside for a project, it will help the scoring by improving the cost-benefit analysis that is part of the Smart Scale process.
 

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