Planning for the reconfiguration of Hydraulic Road’s intersection with U.S. 29 could begin sooner than expected.
“We look forward to the continued progress and movement, specifically with the Hydraulic Road Area Study, in order to keep Virginia moving through the Charlottesville area,” wrote Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne in a recent letter to local officials.
Money for a study currently is not scheduled to be available until July at the earliest, which would complicate efforts for the region to apply for construction funding in the next round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale prioritization process.
In 2014, the Commonwealth Transportation Board allocated more than $200 million for road projects as part of the Route 29 Solutions package of projects following the demise of the Western Bypass.
The Route 29 Solutions projects include the recently completed Rio Road underpass, as well as the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center. Other projects are a northern extension of Hillsdale Drive, Berkmar Drive Extended and a second daily passenger train between Lynchburg and Washington.
Money also was set aside for two projects that wouldn’t be built until they are approved by the administration to follow that of Gov. Terry McAuliffe. $10 million was allocated for preliminary engineering for a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 and another $10 million was reserved for design and construction of a southern extension of Hillsdale Drive.
However, the Hydraulic Road funding currently is not scheduled to be available until July 1, 2018. That’s the first day of fiscal year 2019. Funding for the Hillsdale project is not available until July 1, 2017.
“Once this process is complete, and based upon the findings, it will be decided whether this should be one or two construction projects,” said Chip Boyles, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “Everything, even the possibility of a very revised or no construction project is dependent upon the study outcome.”
Earlier this year, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board passed a resolution asking that at least some of the funding be accelerated so planning can take place sooner.
“We are able to accommodate the acceleration of funds in order to begin the transportation study for the Hydraulic Road area,” Layne said.
Layne said $1 million in funding will be transferred to the project in the current fiscal year. Another $1 million will be made available for the study on July 1.
Boyles said this may be contingent on approval by the CTB.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which houses the MPO, will be responsible for coordinating a small-area plan for the vicinity of the intersection. The northwest quadrant is within Albemarle County whereas the other three quadrants are within Charlottesville city limits.
“A certain amount of land-use planning is required for accurate modeling for traffic analysis for the preliminary planning and engineering,” Boyles said.
Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel, a member of the MPO Policy Board, said she looks forward to working with VDOT and the city on the study.
“Hydraulic and Hillsdale are in close proximity and areas of traffic congestion,” she said. “A design that ties together vehicular, pedestrian and bike improvements for both intersections will produce the best result for all our citizens.”
Funds for whatever project results from the plan will have to qualify through the Smart Scale process. The next application due date is Sept. 30, 2018.
The city, county and the MPO already have submitted their projects for fiscal year 2018.
VDOT will hold a public hearing in Culpeper on Dec. 15 to take public input on this year’s applications. Overall, 436 applications totaling $9.25 billion were submitted from 148 localities and regional planning groups.
Scores will be revealed in January and the CTB is expected to vote on the projects in June.