On October 15, 2008, the
North Charlottesville Business Council (NCBC)
, a division of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, invited VDOT representatives to a luncheon at the Doubletree Hotel to discuss the department’s vision for safety improvements along Route 29 North of Charlottesville.
, VDOT Regional Operations Director, and
, VDOT Regional Traffic Engineer, gave a presentation that detailed some of VDOT’s statewide and local safety efforts.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the Commonwealth had more than 1,000 traffic fatalities in 2007. The 1,026 fatalities in 2007 included 88 pedestrians and over 1,700 pedestrians sustained injuries last year. Shiley told the business leaders from the 29 North area that VDOT’s goal was to save 100 lives and prevent 4,000 injuries by 2010. Thus far in 2008, traffic fatalities are about 21% lower than last year (633 in 2008 vs. 798 in 2007, year to date).
The NCBC has been closely following Albemarle County’s Places29 master planning effort and has advocated for such things as improved timing of traffic lights and safe routes for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Shiley reported that traffic signal timing improvements on Route 29 North were completed in August 2008. He said travel times had decreased during peak evening traffic flows between Hydraulic Road and Airport Road, by 2.66 minutes southbound and 1.47 minutes northbound.
When NCBC member Michael McGowan asked Shiley when, if ever, a pedestrian crossing would be established on Route 29, he responded that the high speed and flow of the highway made that a challenge. He indicated pedestrian bridges might be the best solution, but said pedestrian crossings with “countdown timer heads” might be an option.
“We will look at selected intersections where we think it is safe to put pedestrian crossings,” said Shiley. “I don’t have a good answer for how long it will take.”
Shiley also updated the group on
safety improvements at Route 29’s interchange with Ashwood Boulevard
, the entrance to the Forest Lakes South development. Sydney Aichs, a 16 year old Albemarle High School student, was killed there in a crash on May 9, 2008 as she turned onto Route 29 South when a tractor trailer driver on Route 29 North failed to stop at the red light.
Of eight improvements identified by VDOT, six have been implemented including reducing the speed limit from 55 MPH to 45 mph and installing rumble strips. Shiley said a “signal actuated sign flasher” warning system will be installed this winter.
In other short-term safety improvement efforts, Shiley said the stretch of Route 29 from Hollymead Drive to Airport Road would also be restriped to reduce driver confusion. In that area, the travel lanes shift to the left as the far right lane heading North becomes right-turn only around Forest Lakes North and Proffit Road.