Albemarle supervisors have agreed in principle to reallocate money set aside for the improvement of Dickerson Road in the northern part of the county for other transportation projects to be considered later.
“That’s been in the plans for a while as both an unpaved road project and a bridge replacement project,” said Joel DeNunzio, director of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Charlottesville residency.
The direction was given Wednesday during a discussion of the county’s secondary road priorities.
In 2006, the county was allocated $4.4 million for new road projects on secondary roads, which are those numbered 600 and up. Albemarle saved up funding for many years to be able to afford its portion of the John W. Warner Parkway, sidewalks on Georgetown Road and streetscape improvements to Jarmans Gap Road.
However, the recent economic downturn led to reductions in state funding.
The county will receive $4.27 million over the next six years but $2.4 million of that must be spent to pave unpaved roads.
The county will receive about $1.8 million that can be used anywhere in the county and this money is currently slated to go toward improvements on Dickerson Road. At one point, the unpaved road had been considered a possible parallel road to U.S. 29, but that is no longer the case because Berkmar Drive Extended is slated to be constructed next year as part of the Route 29 Solutions package.
However, DeNunzio said supervisors don’t have to find a new home for the money yet.
“We don’t have to make a decision about that now,” he said.
Any projects approved in the future will have to be weighed using a new prioritization system mandated by the General Assembly last year. The details of how that process will work are still being formulated by VDOT staff.
DeNunzio said VDOT has completed repairs to Dry Bridge in the past year and is just about to begin repairs to the Broomley Road bridge. That structure has been under weight restrictions since being damaged by a train in 2007.
“That bridge will close on May 11,” DeNunzio said.
Another construction project is underway on Black Cat Road.
Paving projects that have been completed this year include a section of Midway Road.
“Pocket Lane and Doctor’s Crossing will be completed this year and we’ll probably start those after the first of July,” DeNunzio said.
That news was welcomed by one county resident.
“The longtime residents [of Doctor’s Crossing Road] have waited patiently for this to be approved,” said Paula Brown-Steedley. “The intent has always been to make the improvements for health and public safety and at the School Board’s request for school bus safety.”
Brown-Steedley said she wants the county to place a 25-mph speed limit on the road to allay fears that a paved road will cause cut-through traffic.
The county keeps a priority list of potential roads to be paved.
The next projects to be added to that list will be Bunker Hill Road and Preddy Creek Road.
“We are trying to make sure we don’t leapfrog anybody,” said Gerald Gatobu, the county’s transportation planner.
Even though secondary road funding is a fraction of what it was in 2006, localities still must communicate their priority projects to VDOT.
The county’s top two priorities for secondary funding are to improve and realign both Proffit Road and Sunset Road. However, there is no timeline for when these projects might actually be built.
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd asked how it might be possible to fund pedestrian bridges over major highways.
“I think there’s really a need for something over U.S. 250 and U.S. 29 north,” Boyd said.
DeNunzio said at-grade pedestrian crossings would be difficult because of the amount of time it would take to cross the roads. However, he said VDOT is looking at the issue on Pantops.
A grade-separated crossing might be possible, but the county likely would need to participate in VDOT’s revenue-sharing programs. Albemarle would need to provide matching funds.
Other projects the county might consider would be to add bike lanes and sidewalks on Fifth Street Extended and a second extension of Berkmar Drive from Town Center Drive to Airport Road.
Boyd also continued his advocacy for the extension of Ashwood Boulevard across to Berkmar Drive Extended.
“It would appear to me that the 29 Solutions package would be greatly enhanced with Ashwood Boulevard extended to Berkmar because it would give you a route where you didn’t have to get onto U.S. 29 if you’re going east and west,” Boyd said.
Supervisors also passed the first phase of an amendment to the zoning code that will allow businesses along U.S. 29 to install temporary signs during construction of the grade-separated interchange at Rio Road.
“Phase 1 of these changes addresses temporary signs for businesses whose permanent signs will be removed as a result of construction and utility work associated with the Rio-29 interchange project,” said county planner Mandi Burbage. In all, eights signs will be removed during this phase while crews work to relocate utilities.
Future phases will apply to a wider number of businesses and they will be before supervisors in June.