VDOT hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to share the preliminary design of changes being proposed around the interchange of U.S. 250 and 29. The $7.5 million project, also known as the “Best Buy Ramp,” is being designed by engineering firm RK&K.
The project includes an additional southbound lane on U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, an extra lane on the interchange ramp at Best Buy and an added acceleration lane on the 250 Bypass from the interchange to the Barracks Road exit.
Michael Jacobs, the VDOT project manager, encouraged the public to provide input on the plans.
“We are just now beginning the final design and there will be an additional public hearing with a lot more detailed information in the fall,” Jacobs said. “We want the public to give us their comments now; we will try to take those into account, and then we’ll come back in the fall when the plans are further developed.”
At the information session, residents were able to walk through VDOT project boards and ask questions. They were shown the first details of the lane configurations and the multiple retaining walls that will be built between the expanded highway and nearby residents.
“The biggest retaining wall that you will see will be along the 250 Bypass,” Jacobs said. “It will be between five, 10 maybe even 15 feet tall in some areas.”
Engineer Owen Peery with RK&K said the exact details of the retaining walls and whether sound barriers would be included were not yet known.
“Our plan is to use the retaining wall where needed to try to stay as far off the right-of-way as we can and try to preserve the trees that are along Route 250,” Peery said.
Many of the trees in backyards along the southbound lanes of U.S. 29/250 Bypass are in the VDOT right of way. Officials said they would use the retaining walls and space in the existing median in an effort to minimize impacts.
In the small group of residents who came to review the plans, several people said they wanted improvements not only for vehicular traffic, but also for pedestrians.
Diane Whaley works at the University of Virginia and lives off of Hydraulic Road. She told VDOT this was the logical time to add sidewalks and crosswalks, especially in front of Best Buy and under the overpass.
“What isn’t included in any of this planning right now is pedestrian safety,” Whaley said. “I have tried to walk the two miles to my job and have found it simply dangerous.”
Michele Yeaton lives in the city off of Angus Road and she came with her young children Liam and Elizabeth.
“I never take Angus Road from 29 because there is always a ton of traffic,” Yeaton said. “I usually cut through the neighborhood up Hydraulic Road down through Cedar Hill.”
While looking forward to the new travel lanes, Yeaton said she also uses the pedestrian crossing at Angus Road, which would become a lane wider.
“My children and I have gotten in the habit of walking down Angus to cross 29 to get to Whole Foods on Sunday morning for breakfast,” Yeaton said. “You have to hustle and make sure they see you. I am an athlete and I think I’ll be OK, but I do worry about older folks.”
Jacobs said cost estimates had increased from around $4 million to $7.5 million as the design requirements have become clearer since VDOT took over management of the project during the past year.
“We are shooting for advertisement in late fall of 2014 so we would go to construction in 2015,” Jacobs said.