Charlottesville City Council has agreed to seek as much as $4.5 million in additional funding for the replacement of the Belmont Bridge, a project that has been in the planning stages for several years.
The council will make an application for the funding through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s revenue-sharing program, which will require an equal match of city funding.
“This revenue sharing is different than the revenue sharing between the city and [Albemarle] County,” said Councilor Kristin Szakos. “This is a way of getting funding from the state.”
The city has spent several years planning and exploring possibilities for the replacement of a bridge, which was built in 1961. The structure currently has a sufficiency rating of 40.8 out of 100; anything below 50 is recommended for replacement rather than repair.
A previous study to design the bridge failed when the engineering firm, MMM Design, went out of business shortly after the council agreed in July 2014 to continue with a replacement bridge rather than tunnel underneath the railroad tracks.
The eastern sidewalk has been closed to pedestrians since April 2011.
VDOT has allocated $14.5 million for the replacement, but the most recent construction cost estimate stood at $17.2 million after the council made its decision.
However, the total amount climbs to $23 million when design services and other costs are factored in. That includes $2.3 million for inspection services, $3.2 million in design and $500,000 in additional purchase of right of way.
Under Virginia code, localities can apply for as much as $10 million in funding for transportation projects through the VDOT revenue-sharing program. These projects do not have to go through the agency’s new Smart Scale prioritization process.
VDOT currently is reviewing the contract between the city and an undisclosed engineering firm to work on a new design.
“We selected a top offer that we then negotiated with,” said Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative manager. “There are a few minor issues and the consultant is going to be fixing those, hopefully by this Wednesday, and we will be executing the agreement for the design portion of Belmont Bridge.”
A public meeting will be held to kick off the next design phase, which will include a three-day design charrette.
“We’re looking at doing an open house where the design options will be presented,” Janiczek said.
The design also will go before the Planning Commission, the Tree Commission, the Board of Architectural Review, the Bike and Pedestrian Committee and the PLACE Design Task Force.
A planning commissioner who sits on the city’s PLACE Design Task Force has requested the city pay close attention to the design going forward.
“We can ensure that this important gateway and connector that leads our visitors to and from Belmont, the Pavilion, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Monticello, Highland, vineyards and other jurisdictions be an efficient, multi-modal and attractive route for all, including pedestrians,” said Commissioner Genevieve Keller.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board will vote in June on which revenue-sharing projects will get funded. Janiczek told the City Council in a staff report that there is $150 million available in the pool for revenue-sharing statewide.
The council also allocated funding requested by city staff in September 2015 in the last VDOT revenue-sharing cycle. Councilors approved the spending of $590,000 for new sidewalks, bike lanes and other accessibility improvements. Half of that amount is a local match.
However, the city has not yet decided where the work will be done. Decisions will be influenced by the city’s bike and pedestrian plan, the Strategic Investment Area and the Streets That Work design guidelines.
A staff report on the matter listed Rose Hill Drive, Hydraulic Road and Barracks Road as possible locations for the new sidewalks. The area of Ridge Street and McIntire Road between Nelson Drive and Elliott Avenue is listed as a possible site for new bike lanes.