Council advances Barracks-Emmet intersection improvements

The Charlottesville City Council has taken the first step toward formally accepting more than $8.6 million in funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation to upgrade the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street.

The project includes constructing new right-turn lanes on both westbound Barracks Road and on northbound Emmet Street. A pedestrian refuge island is planned for the median of Emmet Street, and an existing Charlottesville Area Transit stop will be upgraded with a bus shelter.

The money comes from the second round of VDOT’s Smart Scale process.

In 2014, the General Assembly passed a law mandating that all transportation projects in the state be ranked based on a series of criteria, including how well they improve congestion and how they can boost economic development.

“We are very pleased that we had the opportunity, because that was a competitive selection throughout the state,” Tony Edwards, the city’s development services manager, said at Monday’s council meeting.

The city and VDOT will enter into an agreement for the project, and the appropriation of funds is the first step to getting the Barracks-Emmet project underway. The city does not need to make a local match for this project.

“The funds are necessary to take care of the resources for design, acquiring any right-of-way that might be needed and constructing the infrastructure,” Edwards said. “These are guaranteed funds to complete the entire project.”

No one spoke at a public hearing on the matter Monday. The council will hold a second reading on the appropriation at a future meeting.

The third round of Smart Scale applications is now open, and Edwards said there are four applications the city would like to make.

An application in the second round for $18.6 million for the West Main Streetscape was unsuccessful. The city will try again in the third round. The firm Rhodeside & Harwell is not expected to complete construction documents for the entire $31 million project until at least next spring.

A 2017 application for the entire project also did not qualify for funding. Since then, the City Council has agreed to split the project into several phases.

The city’s proposed five-year capital improvement program sets aside $ million in city funds for the project.

“The dollars we have in here for West Main represents funding to provide construction of phase 1, design of all phases and the construction documents for phase 2,” Ryan Davidson, the city’s senior budget management analyst, said at a budget work session earlier this month.

The new application for West Main would go toward construction of phase 2 and design and construction of phases 3 and 4.

The second Smart Scale application would be for improvements of the intersection of Grady and Preston avenues.

“This was the No. 1 priority in the Streets that Work process,” Edwards said.

In January, the PLACE Design Task Force set aside time at its meeting to get input on how Preston Avenue might look in the future. However, some members of the group expressed concern that not enough community engagement had been conducted in advance.

“We decided to select it because the baseline study and analysis is already done,” said Alexander Ikefuna, the city’s director of neighborhood development services. “We have our on-call traffic engineering firm doing a traffic study and conceptual plan that will support the application.”

The third Smart Scale application would see various improvements at the intersection of U.S. 250 and Hydraulic Road, including new turn lanes, signal improvements and new sidewalk and trail connections.

“That is going to be the subject of our work session with the Planning Commission on Thursday,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin, referring to a 6 p.m. meeting that is scheduled to be held at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s offices on Water Street.

Galvin said the challenge would be to find a way to get pedestrians and cyclists safely through the area.

The fourth application would cover planned improvements in the Fifth Street-Ridge Street-McIntire Road corridor. The scope of the work would be directed by a study that currently is underway.

“We see that as several sections that will need their own specific improvements made,” Edwards said. “We’re hoping to be able to package one or two of those sections for Smart Scale.”

Edwards said there will be public engagement opportunities as the projects move forward.

Albemarle County failed to have any projects qualify in the first round of funding, but secured money for several projects in the second round. Those projects include $5.8 million for a roundabout at U.S. 250 and Route 151; $18.4 million to realign Interstate 64’s interchange with U.S. 250; and $3.8 million for a connector road between Rio Mills Road and Berkmar Drive Extended.

Albemarle officials have not narrowed down their applications for the third round.

“I’m going to the board on April 4 to discuss and get their direction on the possible applications,” said Kevin McDemott, the county’s transportation planner.

The city received funding for three projects in the first Smart Scale Round. Design work is underway for a $ million streetscape for East High Street near downtown Charlottesville. The city also will work with the University of Virginia on the $12.7 million Emmet Street Streetscape at Ivy Road. The firm RK&K has been hired to design the $11.7 million Fontaine Avenue Streetscape.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization also will apply for Smart Scale projects this year. The regional body’s policy board will be presented with options later this spring.