You can get there from here, but it will take a little longer.

The Charlottesville City Council recently received information on an upcoming test to reverse the direction of one block of Monticello Road to accommodate traffic pattern changes expected when the Belmont Bridge is replaced.

The final design for the bridge eliminates the left turn from Graves Street toward Avon Street. This closure would force motorists to take either a circuitous 0.36-mile route underneath the bridge to reach Levy Avenue and head south or a 0.41-mile route using Graves and Goodman streets to reach the traffic light at Levy Avenue via Monticello Road.

“As neither of these proposed routes provide an easy route, traffic engineering — myself — proposed the idea for reversing the flow of Monticello Road, which is currently a one-way road, for one block,” city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan said at Monday’s City Council meeting.

This option would only be an extra 0.13 miles over the current access point at Graves Street, he said.

The proposal has met some resistance in presentations to Belmont residents, Duncan said, which mostly revolved around topography and traffic concerns.

“So far, I’ve received negative or hesitant at best response to this idea from those neighbors who are directly impacted [on Monticello Road and Levy Avenue].”

Levy Avenue and Monticello Road meet at an acute angle, and some people are skeptical of the ability for vehicles to turn right from Monticello to Levy.

“You have a hairpin turn, and you’re going kinda going uphill going from Monticello to Levy,” Duncan said.

Computer models say the turn is possible, he said, but “people see it and they don’t think it’s viable.”

Other concerns are that traffic would significantly increase on that stretch of Levy, as people are using Monticello and Graves as a shortcut to the Belmont Bridge. Duncan said he thinks the traffic reversal instead will decrease traffic on both.

“I think that by switching the direction of [Monticello Road], we will reduce the number of cut-through traffic because, instead of being able to bypass lights all the way down the corridor from Avon to Monticello and come out on the other side on Graves Street, they’ll now have to exit onto the light,” he said.

Traffic officials will hold a test run on the traffic pattern on an upcoming Saturday to determine if concerns are warranted, Duncan said. If the proposed route is difficult, the plan would end there.

“It either works or it doesn’t from a physical standpoint,” he said.

If the test is successful, it will be followed by a six-month trial and create a traffic study. Both will be paid out of the traffic engineering budget.

Mayor Nikuyah Walker asked why the trial period is set to be six months. Duncan said it was to give people enough time to adjust to the change, try other routes and settle into a new routine. The Monticello Road reversal would send motorists past 15 residences. The longer of the alternative routes would send traffic past 63.

“I think this is a creative way of trying to avoid the other options that we have here going through the neighborhoods,” said Councilor Heather Hill, who sat on the Belmont Bridge Steering Committee.

The City Council in May approved the design of the $24 million Belmont Bridge replacement, and construction is expected to begin in 2020 and end by 2022. The deteriorating bridge it will replace was built in 1961.


Elliott Robinson has spent nearly 15 years in journalism and joined Charlottesville Tomorrow as its news editor in August 2018 through 2021. He is a graduate of Christopher Newport University.