The Charlottesville Planning Commission has endorsed keeping the second vehicular crossing in its current location on 4th Street NE. They will officially vote on the issue at their next regular meeting on March 11, 2008, though the item is likely to be put on the consent agenda.
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The second crossing was opened as a year-long pilot project in May 2006. After the experiment, Council voted in June 2007 to make the temporary crossing permanent, but directed staff and the Planning Commission to revisit whether 4th Street was the most appropriate crossing.
The Commission’s endorsement came during a work session held on February 26, 2008. The Commission voted 4-3 in December to continue the second crossing, but left open the question of whether the crossing should be moved one street over to 5th Street NE. The Commission was also directed by City Council to consider the possibility of reversing the flow of traffic. The second crossing currently travels southbound on 4th Street E.
After sorting through more than a year’s worth of pedestrian counts and studying the various alternatives, staff recommended keeping the 4th Street crossing, and keeping direction flowing southbound because of the proven safety record of the arrangement. Angela Tucker, Charlottesville’s Development Services Manager, told the Commission there had been no accidents since the opening of the crossing. Additionally, re-orienting the flow of traffic would mean traffic lights on Market Street might have to be shifted.
Angela Tucker explains the reasoning behind staff's recommendation to keep 4th Street as the second crossing
Tucker wrote in her staff report that the cost of either option would be approximately $700,000. Work to upgrade the crossing and to move overhead utilities underground will coincide with the Downtown Mall renovation project.
During the discussion, none of the six Commissioners present supported making any changes. Even though he voted against the second crossing in December, Commissioner Mike Farruggio said he thought there would be a public outcry if traffic flow is reversed.
One Commissioner asked if there would be a curb on the mall, but Tolbert said there would not be. If anything, the vehicular crossing will likely be slightly elevated above the mall to signal to motorists that they are driving in pedestrian space.
Commissioners also discussed ways to stop vehicles from stopping and parking in the middle of 4th Street. Many delivery trucks use the space, even though the Mall is not a loading zone. Tolbert said a downtown parking study is underway that will include suggestions on how to improve delivery to vendors on the Mall.
Council will make the final decision at a meeting later this year.